August 9, 2018 02:00 AM NPT
The Sikta Irrigation Project of Banke district of Province 5, which can irrigate almost all the low lands of the district and first conceptualized in 1975, is in the wrong course. First, it is yet to be completed and the parts that have been completed are found defective. But the government agencies have taken no initiative to take action against the defaulting contractors of this multi-billion national pride project. This indifference to wrongdoings in the project, which upon completion, is expected to irrigate as many as 43,000 hectares of land of Banke district is worrisome. Two weeks have already elapsed since the canal near Jhijhari River crumbled on July 23 on a trial run, no question about it has been raised in the parliament nor the contractors who messed with the national pride project has been interrogated, let alone punished.
It has been established that the reason behind canal collapse is design defect and poor construction works by the contractor. The collapsed canal was constructed by Kalika Construction Pvt Ltd, of which lawmaker Bikram Pandey is the sole promoter. The soil used in refilling the canal was found to be not strong enough. And yet there are claims and counterclaims as to who should shoulder the responsibility for its repair. The contractors claim they knowingly compromised on civil works to save money. It has also been revealed that government officials intentionally deferred for 17 months before testing the main canal after formally taking over the project from the contractor. This deferral allowed Kalika Construction to walk free from any responsibility of repairing construction defects. If the canal construction testing was conducted before the defect liability period (DLP) of the project that had expired in February 2017, we could hold the contractor responsible for all repairs and damage restoration. Now tax payers might have to bear the burden of repair and maintenance.
Deferral of canal testing after DPL amounts to corruption and it must be investigated for abuse of authority. As the fresh report suggests, this was done under undue influence or negligence on the part of government officials and the contractor. The fact that Department of Irrigation and Ministry of Energy, Water Resources and Irrigation have not yet formed a team to investigate defect suggests the same. This indifference to national project raises the suspicion of collusion among the contractors and politicians. Why isn’t the prime minister’s office speaking about it? Why do none of the parliamentarians raise this issue of vital importance in the parliament? What became of Home Minister Ram Bahadur Thapa’s commitment to take action against non-performing and fraudulent contractors? Also, the Commission for Investigation of Abuse of Authority (CIAA) is conspicuously silent about this. Whoever tried to mess with Sikta Project—be it government officials, politicians or contractors—must be held accountable. The government should immediately form a probe panel, conduct thorough investigation of the case and hold the guilty party to book. Every measure should be taken to ensure that the project completes on time and the contractors working on it meet the required standards.