The Executive Committee of National Economic Council (Ecnec) has reportedly handed over the construction of bypass at the site of Diamer-Bhasha dam project to Wapda, presently with National Highways Authority (NHA), to secure $70 million grant from USAID, sources close to Chairman Wapda told Business Recorder.
The project envisages construction of (7.3-metre-wide) 34.83-kilometre-long bypass along Shatial-Thor Nullah on the Karakoram Highway (KKH) along with widening and upgradation of the existing 2.94-km-long link road from Thor Nullah to the KKH.
The project will replace the existing portion of the KKH likely to be submerged after the construction of the Bhasha dam project.
To facilitate uninterrupted transportation of plant, equipment, machinery and material required for the project’s construction, the project is being given a high priority.
According to the background, the project was approved by Ecnec in its meeting on August 20, 2009 at an estimated cost of Rs3.844 billion. The project was anticipated to be completed in 18 months. The project was taken up being a pre-requisite for construction of the proposed dam by the ministry of Water and Power as its sponsoring agency and NHA was tasked to execute the project as deposit work for Wapda.
NHA could not initiate work on the project within the planned period because of various reasons. After more than a year after the approval of the project, NHA, however, completed the process of procurement of contractor but did not award the contract because of Wapda reservations.
Taking notice of the undue delay on initiation of work by NHA, the Chairman Wapda approached Planning Commission and informed that they were ready to finance and execute the project without engaging NHA. USAID had shown willingness to fund the project in case Wapda executes the project. As a result of detailed deliberations in the matter with all stakeholders ie NHA, Wapda, Finance and Planning Commission, a proposal for changing of executing agency from NHA to Wapda was submitted to the Ecnec in its meeting on May 26, 2011. Ecnec considered the proposal but did not approve it. Ecnec further directed that (i) NHA will execute the subject project on the same approved cost and design / specification by completing the requisite re-tendering process within four weeks and (ii) Wapda will transfer the requisite funds to NHA. The Minister for Water and Power will discuss with Wapda and NHA to chalk out time schedule to ensure completion of the project on fast track basis.
The sources said, a second proposal made by M/o Water and Power for review of Ecnec decision taken on May 26 last year for change of executing agency again from NHA to Wapda:
According to the Ministry of Water and Power, in compliance with the Ecnec decision, a meeting was convened on July 7 last year under the chairmanship of Minister for Water and Power to finalise the action plan, which due to non-availability of the Minister was presided by the Secretary Water and Power. During the meeting it was informed by the Chairman Wapda that USAID has shown willingness to provide $70 million as grant to fund this project provided the executing agency will be Wapda.
The matter was referred by the Ministry to EAD for negotiation with the USAID grant. EAD advised the Ministry of Water and Power to seek approval of Ecnec for changing of executing agency from NHA to Wapda before negotiation takes place with the donor agency. However, EAD has taken up the matter with USAID.
As a result of EAD’s observation, the Ministry of Water and Power prepared the proposal for review of Ecnec’s earlier decision taken in its meeting held on May 26, 2011 for changing the executing agency from NHA to Wapda.
The Ministry of Water and Power obtained comments of NHA which are also endorsed by the Planning Commission and are as follows: (i) project has high priority with the government;(ii) being ahigh priority project, NHA after approval of project by the Ecnec, undertook procurement process of the project which has been finalised; (iii) If USAID grant is Wapda-specific, the project can be implemented by NHA as deposit work for Wapda to avoid further delay and (iv) since the bypass is being constructed in lieu of that section of the National Highway N-35 which will get submerged due to Bhasha dam construction, the responsibility for the construction and maintenance rests with NHA.
The sources said the Planning Commission did not support the proposal of Ministry of Water and Power on the following grounds: (i) NHA being the relevant agency and expert in road construction have completed procurement process and ready to mobilise contractors at site;(ii) in case, executing agency changes as desired by Wapda then it is apprehended that project may get further delayed with cost overrun and (iii) the USAID grant can be arranged by the EAD for Wapda and the same funds could be provided to NHA against the deposit work.