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When projects get delayed

Mangdechhu ​Hydropower ​P​roject, which was gearing ​to be commission​ed next month, has pushed its deadline to November. As is the way with most projects executed in the country, the series of delays come as no surprise to the Bhutanese.

We have become accustomed to delaying works and have no qualms blaming others as the cause. We rarely ask the cost of such delays, let alone ​their impact. Discussions on the factors that could be delaying major projects and the ways to resolve them may be held but are rarely made public.

This apathy from authorities to question delays in development activities is ​worrying. It is worse when they resort to and engage in a blame game, an indulgence that authorities and the people know is not helpful.

The project has cited shortage of cement supply over the last month and half for delaying the works and claims that it received only 30 percent of the cement requirement last month. Dungsam Cement, which supplies the product, claims that it has met 96 percent of JP’s and 95 percent of Gammon India’s demand for cement last month.

Such discrepancies in the records maintained by the project authority and Dungsam ​C​ement not only raises questions but should also alert investigating agencies. It is reported that a consensus was reached when the officials concerned met to discuss these issues. The project was to inform in advance their cement requirement, to maintain a buffer stock and to clear the payments on time. This was to help Dungsam plan its production and​ ensure smooth supply of cement.

It has been learnt that none of these were implemented. The issue with the truckers, equipment and the roadblocks have only compounded the problems further. But these issues, although challenging would not be unresolvable and should they persist, the problem is then more than what has been stated.

Given the importance of the project to the people and the economy, it is critical that these issues be resolved at the earliest. Hydropower is the cornerstone of the Bhutanese economy and a hallmark of India-Bhutan relations. Our interdependence in developing hydropower projects means that any delay is a concern to both the parties.

The authorities concerned must identify the management glitches that are resulting in the unplanned execution of the remaining works at Mangdechhu project. Besides cost overruns being a concern, questions are now asked on whether an accountability mechanism exists when it concerns these projects. The people need answers, not excuses or a spectacle of blame game.

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