GUWAHATI, Aug 4 - Which is more important: water or roads? As people in Guwahati hum and haw about their priority, the Public Works Department has found itself in a quandary.
Consider this: The four city divisions of PWD have got a sanction of Rs 7,361 lakh in this financial year under the Annual Road Maintenance Fund (ARMF). The projects include 202 schemes � repair and maintenance works � in the city and North Guwahati.
According to an official document, 130 of the 202 sanctioned schemes have been completed. Work in the other 72 schemes, which include some major roads in Guwahati, has been extremely sloppy � and out of them 68 due to the under-construction water supply project.
The contractors involved in laying the pipes of the water supply project have damaged as many as 13 roads and have not restored them, according to an official document in possession with The Assam Tribune. Among these, seven are under PWD City Division I, four under City Division II and two under North Guwahati State Road Division.
In 55 other roads, the pipelines were partially laid and the damaged roads partially repaired � 32 of them under City Division III.
�We are not being able to proceed with the repair and maintenance works in respect of 68 roads due to the water supply project. These roads are among the 72 schemes under ARMF which are yet to be completed,� a senior PWD official said.
It is learnt that the GMDA was given a �blanket approval� to lay the pipes without having to take the permission of the PWD. Sources said the estimates of the water supply project include the cost of restoring the roads damaged during laying of the pipes. �The cost of restoration has been included in the contracts of the water supply schemes. However, there have been glaring lapses on the part of the contractors executing the water supply project,� the PWD official alleged.
Firstly, the contractors of the water supply project should give the PWD a monthly plan of the digging work, but on many occasions, no intimation was given to the PWD.
�In some cases the pipes have a width of 1.2 metres. If you dig so much and keep it without refilling for a few days, the width of the hole goes on increasing, given the regular traffic on the road. Moreover, the holes are refilled with the debris accumulated while digging, which is not the norm. Refilling should be done with sand gravel, stone dust, etc., to maintain the road level. Else there could be submergence,� the official said, citing the instances of the Chandmari trijunction, Rupnagar-Birubari Road, Majhar Road, AT Road near Bhootnath, Panbazar HB Road, etc., where the quality aspect was not followed while refilling. So these roads could not be restored to their original shape.
The situation has come to such a pass that the PWD contractors who have been allotted the repair and maintenance works, are reluctant to start work fearing that the roads might be dug again for the water supply project.
�Now, the PWD contractors have to maintain the roads they make for three years. They are not willing to take the chance. What if the road is dug within days of its repair by the PWD contractors?� the official said.
The PWD has sent a number of letters to the Project Director and other officials of the JICA-funded water supply project (some of them are in possession of this newspaper), citing its plight.
�We could not take up improvement works on all the roads of Guwahati city due to non-restoration/ partial restoration of the roads against which water supply pipes are laid�it is obvious that due to non-repairing of city roads, the PWD has been facing a lot of criticism though the department is not at all liable for the same,� one such recent letter to the Project Director of the water supply project stated. But the deadlock has not yet ended, laying bare the lack of coordination between the two departments.
The physical work of the JICA-assisted Guwahati Water Supply Project costing Rs 1,427 crore, which began in the later half of 2011, has missed several deadlines.