ROURKELA: An abandoned British-era pond in Sundargarh town is getting a major facelift. 'Bijli Bandha', or Bijli tank, is set to transform into a recreational facility that would now cost Rs 30.42 crore and all of it is being funded by the District Mineral Foundation (DMF).
Spread over 20.99 acre of land, its renovation and beautification is taking place on 16 acre. The project includes musical fountain, amphitheatre, jogging and cycle track, children’s play area, gazebo, cluster sitting, aeration and oxidation of pond and landscaping.
After Water and Power Consultancy Services Limited (WAPCOS) under the Ministry of Jal Shakti floated tender for renovation and beautification of the pond last year, Delhi-based Ridhi Construction bagged the work for Rs 25.90 crore.
Work started through Ridhi’s sub-contractor in October 2020 but was halted between March and June this year when WAPCOS raised a running bill for Rs 5.16 crore but only Rs 2 crore was released. In absence of money, the sub-contract firm stopped the work. Work resumed a fortnight back and so far, around 20 per cent has been completed.
By now, the project cost has seen an escalation. Against the original cost of Rs 29 crore, the DMF will now spend Rs 30.42 crore to renovate and beautify the historic pond at the district headquarters town which is apparently not identified as a mining-affected area. The DMF gave its nod to the cost escalation from Rs 29 crore to Rs 30.42 crore in May after new changes were incorporated in the final detailed project report (DPR).
The hike in project cost was due to additional works of redevelopment of the connecting area near Sundargarh SP residence and shifting of overhead power lines from the site. The redevelopment of area near SP residence near Bijli Bandha would cost a little more than Rs 2 crore while power-line shifting is estimated at Rs 79.07 lakh.
‘Bijli Bandha’, the water body on Jalachar and Kata types of land is said to have been set up by royal family of the erstwhile princely state of Gangpur for hydro-power generation. It was then abandoned.
There are, however, questions on how this was funded under the DMF as guidelines clearly mandate spending through Pradhan Mantri Khanij Kalyan Yojana (PMKKY) in areas directly and indirectly affected by mining operations.
The Ministry has earmarked 60 per cent spending on high priority areas including drinking water supply, environment, health, education and welfare of children, aged women and disabled, skill development and sanitation. The rest 40 per cent is allowed for other high priority areas like physical infrastructure, irrigation, energy and watershed development besides environmental measures.
Local MLA and DMF member Kusum Tete said she was unaware of the project cost revision. She claimed that to know about the project component while attending the foundation stone laying ceremony.
“As long as development is taking place in my constituency, I do not mind from where the fund was coming from,” said the MLA.
Former president of Sundargarh Special Development Council Santosh Amat said due to dumping of garbage and lack of maintenance, the abandoned water body was heading for premature death. The project would protect the local environment and enable recreational facility to town residents, he added.
Sundargarh Collector and DMF chairman-cum-managing trustee Nikhil Pawan Kalyan did not reply to any query.