World Bank-funded road project in Himachal re-allotted

Shimla, Sep 30 (IANS) A World Bank-funded multi-million road project in Himachal Pradesh, which was earlier awarded to Chinese firm Longjian Road and Bridge Company, has been re-allotted to another company, officials said here Monday.

According to official, the project is likely to be completed in two years.

The Rs.321 crore project for widening 80-km-long road in Shimla district has been awarded to C and C Constructions Ltd. and work would commence this year, an official of the public works department (PWD) told IANS.

At present, the bumpy 80-km-long Theog-Kotkhai-Hatkoti-Rohru stretch is a motorist's nightmare. It is the lifeline for Shimla's prominent apple belt and carries out annual apple business worth Rs.1,000 crore.

The offical said the World Bank had granted approval for awarding the contract to the new bidder.

The entire stretch has been divided into two portions - 48 km stretch from Theog to Kharapathar and 32 km portion between Kharapathar and Rohru.

The first stretch would be completed at a cost of Rs.179 crore, while the second at Rs.142 crore, he said.

Earlier, the entire project was given through global bidding to a Chinese firm at a cost of Rs.228 crore.

The government terminated the contract in August 2012 owing to inadequate funding of the project and non-mobilisation of resources by the company.

The construction began June 5, 2008, and as per the agreement, the road was to be completed within 36 months.

According to then PWD minister Gulab Singh, "In the project's initial stage there was some delay in getting the land transferred and getting forest clearances."

"The work had come to a complete standstill (in 2009) when the Indian government cancelled visas for the company employees. Most of the employees had to return to China," the minister told the assembly in August 2012.

He said the state government gave three notices to the chinese firm before terminating the contract through the consultant appointed by the World Bank.

The Chinese company had executed only 22 per cent of the total work in five years and it was paid Rs.62 crore.

"The total outlay of the project has now increased to Rs.383 crore but the World Bank has agreed to provide additional loan for the enhanced cost," said another PWD official.

Himachal Pradesh has limited rail connectivity, no waterway and only three small domestic airports, forcing it to rely exclusively on its road network for transportation.

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