The ambitious multi-crore Goregaon-Mulund Link Road (GMLR) is likely to be the first big ticket infrastructure project that will be affected by the new rules brought in by the Centre to keep Chinese firms out.
Civic officials said that following the recent restriction imposed by the Finance Ministry on procurement of goods and services from bidders of countries that share a land border with India, the BMC will make changes in the global Request for Qualification (RFQ) of GMLR project, which currently allows any firm to participate in tenders.
According to civic officials associated with the project, on Thursday, the Finance Ministry made amendments in General Financial Rules (GFR), 2017 under which bidders from border countries will be eligible only if they are registered with the Registration Committee constituted by the Department for Promotion of Industry and Internal Trade (DPIIT).
Also, political and security clearance from the External Affairs and Home ministries will be mandatory. The changes have been made on grounds of national security.
A senior official from the Bridges department said on condition of anonymity, “The new rules will affect Chinese participation in the project. Soon, as we receive the Finance Ministry’s rules, we will change the tender clause accordingly and a revised RFQ will be put on the website.”
In 2019, when the BMC had invited global Expression of Interest (EOI) for ‘Design and Construction of Twin Tunnel including approaches and box tunnels for GMLR project’, 30 firms had participated including a couple of companies from China. Apart from that, companies from Japan and Korea had attended meetings expressing their willingness to execute the project.
“Last year, two Chinese firms had shown their interest in the project and their representatives had attended a few meetings. Since the project involves construction of tunnels, market for tunnel boring machines, a key requirement for the project, is dominated by Chinese firms,” said another senior official from the BMC.
The BMC has planned the 13.65-km GMLR to ease traffic on Mumbai’s east-west connectors. The estimated cost of the project, which includes 4.7-km twin tunnels and an elevated road, is Rs 4,770 crore and the deadline for the work is five years from the day contract is awarded.
The twin tunnels will pass through Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) and will impact 19 hectares of reserved forest. The tunnels will be bored 25 metres to 200 metres underground.
At present, in Mumbai, 18 TBMs are in use in various infrastructure projects, and all are either owned by Chinese firms or European or American firms that manufacture these machines in China.
BMC officials acknowledge that apart from the Covid-19 pandemic, the new conditions on not having Chinese participation are likely to cause delays in the project. “We will have to find out other options for TBMs. Countries like Russia, Germany and Turkey have TBMs and could help in this project. But for now everything is on hold as Covid-19 has affected international travel and industries. Also, staff is busy in Covid-19 duties,” said Sanjay Darade, Deputy Municipal Commissioner (Infrastructure).
According to civic officials, it is difficult to find alternatives to Chinese TBMs as most of them are either manufactured by Chinese-owned companies or other firms from Western countries that supply TBMs have machines that are manufactured in China.
Earlier, the BMC had decided not to utilise Chinese expertise for assembling and executing the country’s largest TBM for the construction of the 9.98-km Mumbai Coastal Road project. L&T, one of the contractors executing the coastal road, brought in the TBM from the China Railway Construction Heavy Industry (CRCHI). The machine arrived in Mumbai in the last week of April.
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