World Bank’s Rs 1100 Cr Shimla water project entangled in bureaucratic trap: Former Dy Mayor
Shimla, Jan 10
Former Deputy Mayor of Shimla Municipal Corporation, Tikender Singh Panwar, has expressed concerns that the Rs. 1100 Cr World Bank funded project for Shimla is slowly falling into a bureaucratic trap. The power to execute the project has been transferred to a state government-owned company.
Panwar highlighted serious lapses in the tender process, overvaluation of projects, and favoritism towards certain individuals, raising questions about the project. In a letter to WB Country Director Auguste Tano Kouame, Panwar emphasized that he had previously raised these issues on April 01, 2023, noting that the project is being executed by Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam Limited.
The project consists of two components: bulk water supply (drawing water from the Satluj River) and a performance-based contract for the rejuvenation of water and sewage networks in Shimla, the state capital of Himachal Pradesh.
Panwar called for the World Bank’s intervention due to prevailing anomalies, stating that the project requires a financial and administrative review, as no significant progress has been made over the past four years. He emphasized that project autonomy was essential, but Shimla Jal Prabandhan Nigam Limited (SJPNL), a government-governed company, is in control.
Panwar criticized the lack of independent directors’ reviews of SJPNL in the last two years, suggesting incompetence or a lack of intention to improve the company’s functioning. He urged the World Bank to reconsider the project execution, as the objectives have not been met, and the bulk water supply is significantly delayed.
The former Deputy Mayor blamed the scheme’s efficiency compromise after transferring it from Shimla MC water works to SJPNL. He alleged that the performance-based contract has been tailored to favor the water company Suez, with inflated tender prices.
Panwar urged the World Bank to investigate Suez’s track record in Coimbatore, where delays and incomplete work were reported in a 24×7 drinking water project. He suggested handing over the project assets to either Shimla Municipal Corporation or Jal Shakti Vibagh for better management.
Panwar concluded by warning that without prompt and objective decisions, the utility is heading for ruins, potentially causing public dissatisfaction. He emphasized the need for responsible and transparent handling of the utility, given its historical significance in Shimla.
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