A. Srinivasa Rao | Mail Today | Hyderabad, July 23, 2012
The Andhra Pradesh government has finalized the tenders for the construction of the controversial multipurpose Polavaram project, over River Godavari, even as the petitions filed by the Chattisgarh and Odisha governments opposing the project are still pending in the Supreme Court.
The Polavaram project, whose total capacity is 287.47 thousand million cubic ft (tmc ft), is aimed at providing irrigation to 4.36 lakh hectares in East Godavari, West Godavari, Visakhapatnam and Krishna districts, drinking water supply to towns and villages and generating hydel power with an installed capacity of 960 MW.
The state irrigation department on Friday evening opened the financial bids for the construction of earth dam and spillway works worth Rs.4,717 crore. While the joint venture of Soma Constructions and China Gezhouba Group Corporation (CGGC) emerged as the lowest bidder (L-1) by quoting Rs.4,599 crore for the project works, another consortium of Southern Engineeing Works (SEW) and Patel Constructions was the second lowest bidder (L-2) by quoting Rs.4,655 crore. Going by the bids, the project works are most likely to be entrusted to the Soma-CGGC joint venture.
The entire tendering process kicked up a big controversy, as the irrigation department short-listed only these two consortia, while disqualifying four other contenders – Madhucon Constructions, IVRCL, Gammon India and Transtroy, which are also reputed construction companies with vast experience in irrigation projects.
The department rejected the applications of these companies on the pretext that their foreign collaborators did not register their companies in the state. This condition has been imposed only to benefit the remaining two companies – Soma and SEW, sources in the department said.
What is more interesting in the whole process is that the same two consortia were the lowest bidders in the Polavaram project tenders which were called in November last. Ironically, it was SEW-Patel consortium which was the L-1 in the previous bids, while Soma-CGGC was the L-2. The tenders were cancelled subsequently following a political controversy. One of the partners in SEW Constructions C Lakshmi Rajam was a business partner of Telangana Rashtra Samithi president K Chandrasekhara Rao in launching a Telugu daily “Namasthe Telangana.”
There were allegations that the Congress government had awarded the contract to Rajam only to dilute the Telangana statehood movement. Moreover, the SEW’s joint venture partner Patel Engineering turned out to be a blacklisted company in other states.
The government called for fresh tenders in April this year and the financial bids were opened on Friday. This time, Soma-CGGC consortium came in the first place, while SEW-Patel consortium was second. “The revised tenders will cause a loss of about Rs.477 crore to the government as the both the firms quoted higher rate this time than what they had done in November last.
While the SEW-Patel consortium, which was L-1 in November tenders, had quoted Rs.4,122 crore, the Soma-CGGC consortium, which is L-1 in the latest tenders, has quoted Rs.4,599 crore. This is despite the fact that the actual price of Rs.4,717 crore fixed by the irrigation department remains unchanged,” sources said.
The disqualified companies have raised a hue and cry over the tendering process and the selection of only two bidders for such a huge project. Some of them also raised doubts over the credentials of the Chinese partner of Soma Constructions. “There are cases against the CGGC in some countries like Nigeria, Nepal and Sudan, where it executed infrastructure projects. It is also executing a hydro-electric project in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir (PoK), which is very sensitive in terms of India’s security concerns. We brought this to the notice of the state government, but our complaints were ignored,” an official of the Gammon India told Mail Today.
Interestingly, the Polavaram project is yet to get the final environment clearance by the Union environment ministry, though it got the clearance from the Planning Commission. In March this year, minister for environment and forests Jayanti Natarajan told the Lok Sabha that the Centre had directed the Andhra Pradesh government not to proceed with the construction work of the Polavaram project till environmental matters were decided upon.
The Chattisgarh and Odisha governments have been opposing the Polavaram project on the ground that it would submerge vast extent of forest land in their respective states. While Chattisgarh has contended that around 2015.52 hectares of land falling in south Bastar, Dantewada in Chhattisgarh, would be submerged by the dam, Odisha is arguing that as many as 13 settlements in eight revenue villages and five hamlets in Podia block of Malkangiri district covering 2,120 hectares of land would be submerged in the backwaters of the Polavaram project, which was redesigned for holding probable maximum flood (PMF) of 50 lakh cusecs, as against the original design for 35 lakh PMF.
Both the governments had filed the petitions in the Supreme Court. A special forest bench of justices K S Radhakrishnan and C K Prasad is hearing the petitions.