CHITWAN, April 13: Krishna Kandel of Bharatpur Metropolitan City-16, who is active in contributing labor and financial support to build an international cricket stadium near his home, became worried when the construction process stopped midway due to financial reasons. But he was happy when the government responded to take responsibility for building the stadium.
The government has recently decided to take ownership of the Gautam Buddha International Cricket Stadium. The process was stopped when the Dhurmus-Suntali Foundation, which started the construction of the stadium, backed out citing lack of funds. In such a situation, the people of Chitwan were happy after the Council of Ministers decided to take ownership of the stadium and proceed with the construction process.
Local residents were disappointed after the work of the under-construction stadium in Ward No. 15 of Bharatpur Metropolitan City was stopped in the middle of October. The Dhurmus-Suntali Foundation started a campaign to build the cricket stadium through donations. When the expected financial support did not come, the Foundation withdrew from the construction process. The Foundation had written a letter to Bharatpur Metropolitan City last January to take ownership of the stadium. The metropolis has not taken over the construction of the stadium due to legal complications.
Renu Dahal, mayor of Bharatpur Metropolitan City, says that the federal Council of Ministers decided to take ownership of the stadium on Monday last week. “The federal government has said that it will take ownership in one way,” she said, “Now the work of stadium construction will move ahead.”
However, an employee of the Office of the Prime Minister and Council of Ministers said that the issue of taking ownership of the cricket stadium has not been approved. “It is understood that there was a discussion in the cabinet about the cricket stadium in Chitwan,” said the employee, “The decision to take ownership has not been formally taken.”
The Foundation started the construction of the stadium on January 30, 2019. As part of the plan to build a stadium with a capacity of 30,000 spectators, in the first phase, a parapet has been built that can hold 3,000 spectators seats. Two hundred and eighty six pillars of the parapet have been erected. The parapet was prepared and the construction of the VIP tower was started. The pillars of Tower One have been erected. While the work on the second tower was underway, the Foundation withdrew from the construction process citing financial crisis.
Even if the central government owns the stadium, Bharatpur Metropolis cannot build it alone, says Mayor Dahal. “We cannot build this project of national pride alone. Rather than the provincial government, it should be done by the federal government,” she said, “We are ready to facilitate the construction of the stadium.”
Mayor Dahal is of the opinion that the National Sports Council should work on this. The Nepal government has allocated Rs 220 million for the construction of the stadium in the budget of the current financial year. Similarly, the provincial government has allocated Rs 70 million.
The Foundation said that more than Rs 570 million has been spent for the construction of the stadium so far. The Foundation claims that there is a debt of Rs 180.43 million. The local government understands that the central government will give money to pay the debt immediately.
Government agencies supported Rs 110.84 million for the construction of the stadium. It has been shown that Rs 20.14 million has been collected from other funds and Rs 90 million from Dhandhanyanchal Yagya. The Auditor General has raised questions on the Rs 80 million budget given by the Bharatpur Metropolitan City.
Rule 31 of the Public Procurement Rules 2064 provides that public bodies should conduct construction work costing more than Rs 2 million through a tender. It is mentioned in the report of the Auditor General that although the Bharatpur Metropolis has paid Rs 80.5 million for the construction of the stadium, it has not evaluated the expenses and progress.
The cost estimation of 85 percent has been completed and Rs 40.9 million resources are lacking. The Auditor General has also instructed to arrange the construction, acquisition of ownership and use of the stadium, taking into account the standards of the National Sports Council and the investment of the metropolis.
The government also formed a six-member committee under the coordination of Urban Ministry Joint Secretary Prabin Tuladhar on July 17 last year to evaluate the construction of the stadium. Even that committee has not been able to make a concrete decision. The committee suggested that it would be appropriate to repay the loan. But the National Sports Council has not disclosed how much debt is to be paid.
According to the Foundation, 35 percent physical progress has been made in the construction of the stadium. A bush has grown in the field. The iron bars used to erect the pillars have rusted. Three security personnel are deployed in the stadium for supervision. But Sitaram Kattel ‘Dhurmus’ of the Foundation says they have not yet been paid.
Kattel has been in Chitwan for two weeks. He is in the mood to hand over the ownership of the stadium to the government and return to Kathmandu. But he said that as the full text of the Council of Ministers decision has not yet arrived, it is a wait and see situation.
Dispute over land
The land of the under-construction cricket stadium is registered in the name of Tribhuvan University. Agriculture and Forestry University, Tribhuvan University and Bharatpur Metropolitan City had made a tripartite agreement and were given the land to build the stadium. The land owned by Tribhuvan University was being used by Agriculture and Forestry University.
Tribhuvan University provided land to the Foundation through Bharatpur Metropolitan City. The area of the land where the stadium is being built is 20 bighas and 8 katthas. The agricultural campus in Rampur run by Tribhuvan University has now become the Agriculture and Forestry University. There was an agreement that Tribhuvan University would give land to Agriculture and Forestry University. But according to the agreement, the ownership of the land has not been transferred yet.
Ishwari Prasad Kadariya, controller of Joint Examinations of Agriculture and Forestry University, says that allowing the stadium to be built on the university's land is a big loss for the university. “We are not happy with the stadium. The university lacks land to run various departments. “The work of the stadium has gone ahead without even assessing the environmental impact,” he said.