The works for the Phuentsholing township development project (PTDP), previously known as the Amochhu land reclamation and township project, would start this October.

The Construction Development Corporation Limited (CDCL) is the implementing agency and it awarded the project to the second lowest bidder, the AFCONS Infrastructure Limited (AIL) in India.

CDCL signed the Nu 2.93 billion (B) contract agreement with AIL on July 18 this year for the CW 01 package, also known as the Zone A. A total area of 162.88 acres will be made available for development in this zone.

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government are funding the project at a 70-30 ratio. ADB’s 70 percent has a grant of USD 24.26 million (M) and loan of USD 28.74M.

The lowest bidder, Simplex Infrastructure Limited (SIL), another India based company, who first won the tender, withdrew the contract. Initially, there was a difference of about Nu 600 million (M) between AFCONS and Simplex’s quoted amount.

CDCL’s director for the Department of Corporate Services, Pema Wangchuk, said they were able to negotiate and bring down to at least Nu 300M (approximately).

“Simplex withdrew because it did not want to extend the bid validity as proposed by CDCL,” he said.

The director explained that CDCL wanted SIL to extend the bid validity because the project fund was not secured at that time. 

“We were still having discussions with the ADB”.

Although the project fund was not secured, CDCL went out with the tendering process as directed by ADB and SIL had quoted the lowest. However, the bid validity expired in February 2018, and Simplex did not extend. 

The fund was secured only on July 3 after three different documents were signed with ADB.

Pema Wangchuk also said that Simplex had wanted a change in the design of the Zone A, which was not doable as it was already approved. 

AFCONS extended the bid validity. 

The director explained securing the project fund took time because it depended on ADB and its procedures. 

“They have their own norms, board and meetings. ADB has tried their best to help us.”

Meanwhile, there were rumours that the PTDP could not be executed because contractors involved in the dredging works along the Amochhu embankments had not vacated the site. 

Construction firms that have dredged the embankment for safety from the flood in 2017 are still there. Although dredging works have stopped, the construction companies are lifting boulders as permitted. 

Phuentsholing thromde had given the construction companies the job to dredge and divert the river and the firms had taken up the job free of cost where the construction companies are allowed to export the dredged riverbed materials. 

CDCL also had written letters to Phuentsholing thromde in December 2017 and requested to handover the site. Thromde accordingly had written to the contractors. 

A thromde official said the contractors had verbally agreed they would vacate whenever required and there were no problems.

Thromde, CDCL, and the contractors also had a meeting on August 13. 

Pema Wangchuk said the construction companies would vacate the site as soon as the project starts. 

“CDCL and thromde have this understanding,” he said.

Thromde officials also said the site would be vacated end of October this year in totality. The construction companies were also given time to complete their work by October. 

Meanwhile, there are five Zones under the PTDP. For now, only Zone A will be undertaken, and the civil works of the contract will involve river embankment construction of 4.8 metres height supported by diaphragm wall of about 4.5 km length on the left bank. 

The township would have a new town on the reclaimed land, which would comprise of commercial, residential, special development areas, institutions, and recreation areas. The infrastructures that would be developed include road network, water supply and sewerage collection and treatment, power and telecommunication and flood warning system.

Zone A township development has a 30-months completion time.

Pema Wangchuk said Zone A is an important package. 

“If we don’t take this package, there are chances of a flood hitting the existing town,” he said. “To mitigate the flood and protect the area, we have prioritised Zone A.”

PTDP was initially conceived as “Toorsa River Training & Flood Mitigation Project” in 2003. 

The works and human settlement ministry and Phuntsholing Thromde with support from DANIDA (Danish International Development Agency) had initiated a pre-feasibility study in 2005 and submitted the report in 2007. 

However, this report did not take into account the Amochhu Hydro Power Project and necessitated the report be revised. The updated report was submitted in 2013.

Rajesh Rai | Phuentsholing