CHANGAI NALA (BANKE), Aug 13: Most of the Sikta Irrigation Project chiefs have been found to have not fulfilled their responsibilities even as the contractor involved in the construction of the irrigation project did sub-standard work.
Local beneficiaries have alleged that the main canal was damaged at several places even during its testing phase as the project chiefs did not monitor the construction work properly.
Although locals had questioned the quality of the work right from the beginning of construction, none of the project chiefs asked the contractor about the quality of the work. After the completion of head works, Krishna Raj Timilsina worked as the first chief of the project when the canal expansion work began.
Then Sarba Dev Jaisawal, Dilip Karki, Saroj Pandit, Ramesh Basnet and Maheshwar Narasingh KC worked as the chiefs of the project. Except for KC, all other project chiefs served for more than a year.
While Jaisawal served as project chief when the first segment of the main canal was constructed, Karki was chief during the construction of the second segment. Similarly, Pandit headed the project when the construction of the third segment of the main canal was completed.The contract for the construction of the eastern canal was signed when the current project chief Basnet assumed office. Pandit, who awarded the contract for the construction of third segment of the canal, had overseen the implementation of the second segment of the canal construction.
“Problems have surfaced now as the contract was awarded without making a detailed study,” said an engineer of the project. “If they had conducted proper study before awarding the contract, there would not have been any issue with alluvial soil [that eventually caused the damage to the canal]. We could have made them work better.”
Sources said the tendency to award the contract in a haste with primary consideration to make money is chiefly to be blamed for the sub-standard work. Shortly after such contracts are awarded, the contractors concerned receive mobilization amount as advance payment and project chief then receives a certain percent of the money as commission.
A local at Kachanapur, Tapta Paudel said although the project has around 60 employees including engineers, they colluded with the contractor and ignored the sub-standard construction of the canal. “We had raised the issue of sub-standard work time and again. But none of the project chiefs took our concerns seriously,” he said.
Nearly 35 kilometers stretch of the canal in the western side lies in the Rapti Sonari Rural Muncipality. Chief of the rural muncipality, Lahuram Tharu said the main reason behind the repeated collapse of the main canal is the sub-standard work. Deputy chairperson of the municipality, Dhani Kumari Khatri said some 24 kilometers stretch of the main canal is already in a dilapidated state though it has not come into operation yet.
The major canal was constructed in phases starting from 2006 and completed in 2015. CTCE Kalika Construction Company had constructed 42 kilometer section of the main canal. A sub-contractor said the canal started crumbling at places immediately after Kalika started construction work.
“Since substandard construction materials were used in building the canal from the very beginning, we had doubts about its resilience,” he said, adding, “And our doubts have come true.”
The sub-contractor doubts if the project will work as the main canal has already been damaged. The canal with the capacity of 50 cumecs was damaged when 4-5 cumecs of water was flown through the canal in the testing phase.The major canal is badly damaged at more than 100 places along its 45-kilometer total length. The sections built in the first and second phases are not in a condition to be used any longer.
The project was started with an aim of providing irrigation to 43,000 hectares of land. But the farmers are still deprived of irrigation facility due to the delay in completing the construction. The damage of the canal at multiple places has now dampened their hope of getting water for irrigation.
Locals demand field monitoring
Locals have demanded the probe panels to visit the damaged sites before reaching any conclusion. Even as the Commission for the Investigation of Abuse of Authority and the Ministry of Energy, Hydropower and Irrigation formed separate teams to probe the irregularities, none of the teams has reached the project site as of now.“Members of the probe panels should come here to see the actual damage. People have expected a lot from the probe committees,” said Lahuram Tharu, chief of Raptisonari Rural Municipality.
Sushil Chandra Tiwari, a joint-secretary at the ministry, who also heads the government-formed probe committee, said they are planning to visit the site this week.