Labour shortage delays Phuentsholing township development project

Phase II of the project to start next year

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing

The Phuentsholing Township Development Project (PTDP) in Amochhu (Toorsa) embankment is likely to miss its deadline.

Shortage of workers – skilled, semi-skilled and unskilled – triggered by the Covid-19 pandemic has affected the project’s Zone A Package-I, which began in November 2018. The deadline for this package, May 2021, will have to be pushed further.

PTDP’s project manager, from the implementing agency Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL), Kamal Dhakal said they conducted a meeting with the project contractor, an Indian company, AFCONS Infrastructure Limited and the project’s consultant to discuss another tentative deadline time yesterday.

CDCL is the implementing agency of the PTDP.

“But there were still several other aspects to consider before a tentative deadline is finalised,” he said. “About 80 percent of the work could have been completed in an ideal situation. About 55-60 percent of the work has been completed so far.”

Kamal Dhakal added that the project is a labour-intensive project and the shortage of workers affected the progress.

He also said that they have proposed to bring in 200 foreign workers in June. However, they managed to get only 42. Many foreign workers who reached Jaigaon returned home due to the long Covid-19 protocols that made them wait.

Prior to the border closure on March 23, the project had close to 300 day-workers from across the border. Many couldn’t turn up after the gate was closed and many started leaving the work and returned home.

“Many workers who had been with us for more than a year also want to leave,” Kamal Dhakal said.

Meanwhile, despite several vacancy announcements to recruit Bhutanese workers, not many have turned up. The “red zone” status of Phuentsholing has also hampered recruiting Bhutanese workers.

PTDP’s contractor, the AFCONS Infrastructure Limited has 57 Bhutanese workers at present.

Its subcontractors have employed 189 Bhutanese workers.

PTDP’s Package-I (Zone A) has a total area of 162.88 acres development work. Under this package, there are five primary components—river training works, backfilling works, walkways (upper and lower), landscaping and 12 cross drainage works. CDCL awarded the package to AFCONS.

The total fund for the project is USD 63 million (M).

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government are funding the project at a 70-30 ratio. Of the total, 70 percent, which is USD 24.26M is the ADB grant, while USD 28.74M is the loan component from ADB. The remaining USD 10M is the government equity injected by the DHI.

Additional ADB fund and Package-II

Recently, ADB approved additional financing of USD 18.5M as loan and USD 10M as grant for the project.

There are two packages under Zone A. In total, the PTDP Zone A now has an overall funding of USD 93M with additional funding of USD 1.5M from DHI.

Meanwhile, CDCL is also readying to tender out the Package-II of PTDP.

“The tender will be floated in January 2021,” Kamal Dhakal said.

Under Package-II—common urban infrastructures for a modern township will be constructed on modern sustainable principles of equity, livability, and competitiveness. The urban infrastructures include road network, water treatment and supply, sewerage collection and treatment, solid waste management system, power supply and telecommunication network.

This second package will be tendered out as an international competitive bidding contract for a contract duration of 30 months. The contract involves both ad-measurement and design and build components. It also involves operation and maintenance of certain components of the work for a mandatory period of two years and an extendable period of three years.

PTDP is by far the biggest urban development project in the country and it would bring huge development in the country, primarily because the project is in the biggest commercial hub.

The project would also save Phuentsholing town from flooding. As the town has also reached its topographical limit of expansion, the project would give a new way for expansion. PTDP would also create more trade and business and create employment opportunities.

With all the zones included, PTDP would reclaim 1,146 acres of land. Work on other zones would start only after Zone A is completed. Zone C would have the highest land coverage of about 800 acres.

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