The Sunday Leader

Tax Payers At Risk From CEB / Water Board

Residents of Kandawala Mawatha in Ratmalana are facing health and safety hazards due to several problems created as a result of a project under the National Water Supply and Drainage Board (NWSDB) left unfinished by a Denmark contractor.

Residents of the area complained that the project was, however, a failure and the foreign contractor E-Phil and Son has abandoned the project. According to the residents, the NWSDB has charged Rs 3,450 from each resident in the area to lay the sewerage line, which has not been completed.

Resident of Kandawala Mawatha Chamila Priyankara told The Sunday Leader, “The contractor has left the country without fully completing the project and as a result the road is not yet reinstated. Dust emission from the road has caused health problems and lot of hassles in the domestic environment.”

He added that the temporary electric wire arrangement in the area is also unsafe. When the residents informed the Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia Municipal Council, the officials had told the residents that the project was handled by the NWSDB and, therefore, the NWSDB needs to inform the relevant authorities regarding the matter.

According to the residents, they have been trying to get the attention of relevant authorities for over three months but none have addressed the issue.

“We understand that there are certain procedures that need to be followed and depending on political or economical conditions of the country work might get delayed. We only ask the authorities at least to provide us with a temporary solution to make this environment livable,” Priyankara said.

The residents complained that they requested the NWSDB to spray water at least twice a day to reduce dust emissions but they had only sprayed water on and off for a couple of days.

Another resident of Kandawala Mawatha, W. G. Chandrathilaka said, “There are so many vehicles that travel through this road as it runs from Attidiya to Belekkade Junction. Besides, there are many factories in this area and heavy vehicles,lorries and containers that pass through this road, constantly generating clouds of dust.”

He added that the project started about two years back. It has been nearly one year since they finished laying the pipes but the authorities have not taken any measures to restore the road back to its original condition.

Electric entanglement

He complained about the steel beam erected, blocking his gate and the driveway with a temporary electric wire arrangement with high tension wires, is unsafe and positioned in a very dangerous manner. The residents also showed their concern over the unsafe electric wire arrangement where some electric wires are being tied to the branches of the trees. At the time of the inquiry, The Sunday Leader witnessed a high tension wire tied to a branch of a Jack-tree directed to a steel beam.

The residents said that they informed the Ceylon Electricity Board (CEB) but the CEB has held the Water Board as the responsible authority as the project was under the NWSDB.
Chandrasiri also pointed out the danger of gullies on the road in several places that risk the lives of motorcycle drivers and the pedestrians. He further added that the excessive vibration during the digging caused lot of damages to properties along the road.
“There are cracks on the walls. The NWSDB said that they would try to give us compensation for the damages caused,” he added, “Right now, what we need is a solution to health and safety issues not compensation.”

Grocery shop owner G. Lakshan added, “The shop is full of dust. People hardly buy anything nowadays. I live behind the shop with my family. I had to send my child away as she was getting ill because of the dust. I myself have got a terrible cough for some time now.”

M. Fernando, another resident, told The SundayLeader that her children have to be on constant medication due to the dust generated in the area. She added, “We have to live here all 24 hours of the day – there is no choice. When we walk on the road, if a vehicle passes by, granites often hit our faces which can be dangerous if it hits the eyes.”

She also added that she and her husband went to several offices of the NWSDB to lodge a complaint regarding the matter but they were directed from one place to another. She also added that, during the digging, it caused lot of damages and constant inconveniences in the neighborhood but they tolerated it.

“We are aware of the importance of carrying out development projects. There is a need to dispose domestic and industrial wastewater. For two years, residents have been tolerating the conditions but, now, since the project is on hold, they will have to address our issues,” resident of Duleepa Silva added. She said that when there is a block on Galle road, all the vehicles going towards Kalutara, Galle, Matara and Kataragama use the Kandawala Mawatha as an alternative road and there is lot of dust emission from the unpaved road. As a result, she added, many people in the area, especially children, suffer from asthmatic conditions.

Project Director of the Water Disposal Systems for Ratmalana and Ja-Ela, Eng. Ranjith Kulanatha told The Sunday Leader that the project consisted of two stages – one in Ja-Ela and the other in Ratmalana, which started in 2008. He added that the Ja-Ela project was completed successfully about two years back and has been in operation since then and the Ratmalana Project was expected to be completed in January this year. He added, “The Treatment Plant and the other structures were completed long time back but there were difficulties in laying the pipes and it took more time than expected.”

Contractor bankrupt

He added that the contractor had gone bankrupt somewhere in August last year – however, until November they carried out their work but were unable to continue further as they could not pay the creditors or settle third party damages. According to Kulanatha
the contract value was US Dollars 90.65 million and the contractor was paid US Dollars 83 million for the amount of work they completed. He added that, since the bankruptcy, the NWSDB did not make any payments and was planning to pay the full amount if they managed to complete the work.

He also added that some of the work done in areas such as Kandawala Mawatha is almost in completion but the Water Board cannot make use of it yet until the pipeline is connected to the mainline. He added that, if the job was completed, the contractor would be the one to excavate, lay the pipeline, fill the line and reinstate the roads. However, since the contractor terminated work, they could not reinstate the roads.

He also explained that Rs. 3,450 was charged under a different project from the residents who wanted the internal plumbing to get connected to the mainline. He added, “The water disposal project was only responsible to lay the mainline. Respective house or factory owners have to pay a certain amount to get access to the mainline.” He added for that purpose the houses needed internal plumbing system which was provided under a different project which charged Rs. 3,450 from each resident who needed access to the mainline.

According to him, the rest of the expenses of the internal plumbing line is funded by a different agency from which they have obtained a grant to provide internal line fixing for the residents who paid the initial amount. Thus he added 93 residents have paid to get access to the mainline but only 73 households are given access to the mainline so far. However, he added that they have already fixed the internal plumbing line for the remaining 20 houses for the amount they paid but the houses have not yet got access to the mainline as in some areas the project is not being completed.

He added that the NWSDB, being a government institute, need to follow certain procedures to get a new contractor to resume work, which might take couple of years, and the NWSDB might have to even go for international bidding to find a contractor if they are going to make use of the foreign funds. Therefore, he added that the NWSDB has requested the respective municipal councils to reinstate the roads and charge the National Water Board the amount they spend on reinstating the roads damaged as a result of the project.

He added, “We have already sent a cheque to the Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia Municipal Council requesting to reinstate several roads including Kandawala Mawatha. Being a government institute, we do not have to worry about the cost.”   According to the Chief Engineer of the Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia Municipal Council Upul Chandana, the NWSDB has already sent a cheque of Rs 57 million to the Municipal Council to reinstate 15 roads in the Dehiwala-Mt Lavinia municipal area.

He added that the NWSDB has requested the Municipal Council to restore several roads including Kandawala Mawatha, First Cross Street, Second Lane off Kandawala Mawatha, New Airport Road and Seventh Lane off Kandawala Mawatha.

He added, “We received the cheque couple of weeks back. We also received the approval to carry out the reinstallation of the roads at the General Meeting held on March3. We have already run the project through the Work Committee and next we have to present it to the Finance Committee.”

He said that by March 14 they would advertise this on the paper calling for tender and give 21 days for the contractors to respond to the advertisement. He added that the government institutes have procedures to follow and, once the process is complete, they would take measures to start work immediately to reinstate the roads as requested.

Unnecessary expenditure

Kulanatha of the NWSDB agreed that this might seem like an unnecessary expenditure, as these roads might have to be excavated again to resume the project in couple of years.

However, he added that they have no choice, as they cannot leave the roads in that condition leaving the public to suffer. In addition, he pointed out that the NWSDB has no legal authority to deal with the matters related to shifting or restoring electric wires and the CEB need to be informed about the matter.
When inquired, Electric Superintendent of the CEB Upul Fernando told The Sunday Leader that some officials from the NWB informed them about the need to reinstate the electric wire arrangement in the Kandawala Mawatha a week ago.

Fernando added, “We made those wire arrangement to facilitate a project handled by the Water Board. We were planning to do the necessary changes immediately as requested by the authorities. However, since the President visited the area last week, all of us were preoccupied with his visit and could not see to the required changes.” He added that the CEB would definitely take the necessary measures to reinstate the electric wires within the coming week.  Kulanatha of the NWSDB also added that they are aware of people complaining about the damages to private property during the excavation. However, he added that when they sought the advice of the Attorney General Department regarding the matter, the NWSDB was advised not to pay compensation for the damages caused by a different party.

Kulanatha added, “It is the responsibility of the contractor to pay for the damages. However, knowing very well that there is a genuine damage during the constructions and that individuals will not go to the extent of suing a foreign contractor, the NWSDB, under the instruction of the Minister, hopes to submit a gazette paper requesting money from the government to pay for the damages.”

He added that they would mainly consider giving compensation to damages less than Rs 100,000 only if the government is willing to allocate the necessary funds. However, he added that if they allocate the money for compensations, some people might also question them for allocating public funds for a damage done by a different party and, therefore, the problem is more complicated than it looks.

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