Feasibility of the Water Project Timeline

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Feasibility of the Water Project Timeline

Mukul Gogoi | February 15, 2020 16:44 hrs


Water, water everywhere but not a drop to drink! This idiom applies to Guwahati very well. I am glad to hear that finally, the Greater Guwahati Drinking Water Supply Project is expected to supply potable water to households in Guwahati partially by December, 2020 and substantially by March, 2021.


In the absence of credible data in the public domain (as to how many households have been connected with the last mile connectivity and water metres amongst the 3 lakh odd household units and establishments or may be more), it is very difficult to say right now whether the promise made by the honourable chief minister will be kept by the inept Guwahati Development Department because technically, it would be a Herculean task if not impossible.


For example, for my household, the technical survey with respect to the length of the pipe connectivity to the inlet point has not been done and neither has there been any activity regarding supply of water metres, which is basically the domain of the Guwahati Municipal Corporation (as I knew last). If such a technical survey is to be done for the entire city of more than 3 lakh household units that include apartments, individual houses and commercial establishments, it would take substantial time.


Let me do a calculation:


Total units: say 3 lakhs


Coverage by technical survey per day - 100 (not possible for any single firm)
Total days required - 3000 days


Say 10 firms are engaged


Days required - minimum 300 days


(The number of days can be reduced by increasing the number of survey firms and giving them a specific time limit though)


So effectively, even after engaging 10 firms and taking a high of 100 household/commercial units a day, a total of 300 days would be needed to complete the survey so as to determine the length of the water pipes required to be connected to the inlet points.This is provided the firms work super efficiently. Of course, the time line can be reduced if the firms engaged are sufficiently large and the firms engage a larger number of surveyors. Let’s not talk about the installation time required for laying of those pipes into your household inlet points and we know how efficient the project administration has been so far. The procurement of those pipes and selection of contractors to lay the pipes is to be added as well. By the way, I haven’t yet added the time required to select such survey firms through tendering and file movement in their engagement. So, let’s say, procurement of these survey firms take a minimum of 2 months (something no government agency whether in the past or at present has been able to achieve) and another 150 days for the ground survey work, we will require 7 months to get off the planning board. After that comes the issue of procurement of pipes and their installation. Even if it is done through a single step process to reduce time (meaning giving the supply and installation to a single agency – cannot be considered efficient as a single agency will require huge manpower to lay those pipes), another 12 months to 18 months would be required at a minimum to complete the process. Another aspect that needs attention is that most digging work in Guwahati would not be possible between April/May till about Sept/Oct due to the rainy season. Well, at this rate, I don’t see the possibility of water flowing through the pipes into my household at Silpukhuri in another 2 years to say the least.


Next comes the issue of water metres and their installation. This would be a similar exercise in terms of days for the installation part but importantly, here the procurement of water metres would be critical. Have the authority officials decided on what type of water metres to install? Analogue or digital? Let’s say, this matter has been settled. Thereafter the issue of procurement and installation through tendering etc will come.


Well, when I read the news on Wednesday morning, I was wondering how it would be possible for Guwahati to get potable water by March, 2021 let alone December, 2020. May be for those 55,000 household units (that have been slated to get such water connections as reported in the news item), such surveys have already been done and the authority is ready with the details. But then it doesn’t make sense to partially target the city in such matters; it only adds to overall costs and there are no economies of scale.


I am aware that the authorities decided many years ago to divert some amount of excess water from the West Guwahati project into parts of Central Guwahati areas but the promise to make the project substantially operational by March, 2021 would actually be a pipe dream for the reasons cited above. 


So, my next assumption was that the technical experts have misled the authorities - especially the ministers and the chief minister. The promise made by an honourable chief minister is a solemn one and I just hope GMDA/GMC/Jal Board etc do not let him down.
11 years is a pretty long time in the life of a city. Actual planning for the project started earlier in 2007 when Tahal Engineering from Israel was appointed to prepare the DPRs. I have seen how Delhi Metro has been built since 1996 when it was planned with the first loan from OECF (JICA now) and which has now gone onto probably 12odd routes and here in Guwahati we are still waiting for that drop of potable water from that elusive pipe. In the meantime much water has flown down the Brahmaputra River, which incidentally would be the source of this water that we will drink (technically, the water below the river bed).


In conclusion, I might add that this post is primarily to initiate a debate into the timeline feasibility aspect of the project with the hope that Guwahati benefits. This water supply project is the lifeline of the city and it needs to be implemented ASAP.

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