Thiruvanthapuram, Aug. 21, 2013: The displeasure of the World Bank over the constant changing of heads for the Kerala Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project, better known as the Jalanidhi, seems well-grounded.
Frequent replacement of the heads of the Jalanidhi project by the state government has badly hit the overall performance of the project as only three per cent of the total funds have been utilised till July in the second phase of the project, which began in February 2012.
Sources attribute this lag in expenditure to frequent changes at the level of executive directors who are the project heads -- when the World Bank itself had insisted a three-year minimum tenure for the project heads.
According to the statistics, the project that is worth Rs 1,022 crore out of which Rs 658 crore is the financial aid from the World Bank, the utilisation has only been Rs 31.82 crore till July 31.
In the first phase of the project that was launched in 1999 and lasted till 2008, the aid was revised and slashed by the bank from Rs 461 crore to Rs 381 crore. But finally the project ended up spending Rs 411 crore, thanks to tsunami-related projects that were taken up on a war-footing basis.
At a state-level review meeting convened by the then executive director M G Rajamanickam in June, it was decided that the project need not wait for the grama panchayats to pool in their share before releasing the project funds. It was decided that the assurance of the grama panchayats to contribute their share was sufficient for releasing the funds. Though this step was taken to cut short the time delay, the project director was shunted out before implementing the decision, which was subsequently shelved.
At a review meeting of the World Bank that was held here on July 18, the bank team had cautioned the state against losing money if the project continues to be executed at the current pace.
A mid-term review of the project implementation will be undertaken by the bank in September 2014, in which the bank will evaluate the progress of the project and decide on the financial aid.
Sources say the bank aid of Rs 658 crore was signed when the rupee value was Rs 48 per dollar, and in the present scenario, the aid would actually become more than Rs 900 crore. But this is likely to get slashed due to the slow pace of the project.
Additional chief secretary (water resources) V J Kurien expressed optimism that matters will improve by the end of the current financial year and the project will be implemented within the set schedule.
"The fund utilisation will improve by the end of the financial year. Even though the project is for a period of five years, we are expecting to finish the project in four years," he said. (Source: K P Sai Kiran, TNN)