‘There’s more to public works than just build and forget’

‘There’s more to public works than just build and forget’

A road in Residency colony covered under the ‘Improvement of Dimapur City Roads’ project. (Morung File Photo)

Road works, contractual obligations, quality standard matter too

Imkong Walling
Dimapur | April 14

Back in March 2018, hopes flickered in the backdrop of a freshly inducted People’s Democratic Alliance government announcing an ambitious undertaking to patch up arterial roads in the district headquarters within 60 days.

The government missed the cut-off date overall but the hope ignited continues to shimmer with two new ventures currently underway in Dimapur and Kohima.

Billed as Improvement of Kohima City Roads and Improvement of Dimapur City Roads, the two projects has a targeted range of covering 26 roads totaling a length of 49.9km in Kohima and 25 roads totaling 34km in Dimapur. It is envisioned to further improve riding conditions in the two cities atleast.

In the words of one PWD (Roads & Bridges) official, “This initiative has been to give a facelift to existing roads in the two cities.” The optimism however came with a disclaimer that it would be difficult to meet the standard of other planned cities pointing to non-existent town planning systems in Nagaland.

The disclaimer notwithstanding, as per the official’s conservative estimate, the current improvement works in Dimapur should last 3-4 years.

Contractual obligations
and defect liability

While the expectations are high, the improvement of riding conditions as envisioned would hinge not only on executing the works and meeting standard quality specifications alone but also on post-construction maintenance; in short, meeting contractual obligations.

Talking of contractual obligations, he said that there is more to public works than just build and ignore once done.

Above and beyond following the standard quality and safety specifications, he maintained that civil contractors/firms generally are contractually bound to continue upkeep works well after completing a project.

This obligation is covered by a ‘Defect Liability’ clause, which essentially is a commitment to post-construction maintenance for a pre-specified period of time.

With regard to the ongoing improvement works, the official disclosed that a firm will be obligated to maintain the road it built for a period of 3 years. “If there is any defect or repairs required within the specified period, the contractor must do it,” he asserted.

The contractual obligations further require that the firms ensure the placement of its technical personnel on site for keeping a close tab on work quality. “It would tantamount to breach of contract if this requirement is ignored,” he said.

As for the Department, he said that it plays an overall supervisory role and added that its engineers are assigned area-wise to scrutinize the works on-field.

On the evident dilemma of dealing with underground communication cables, which mostly lay right underneath roads, he said that the Department is coordinating with the telecoms.

Asked on the public response, he said that the colony councils have been very cooperative. “This time it is really amazing. Committees comprising members from different colony councils have been formed to coordinate with the department and the contractors/firms.”

What happened to the 60-day pledge?
As reported in the media, the government listed 116.4km of roads in the 12 district headquarters as “priority” for repair under the 60-day road pledge of March 2018, while sanctioning Rs. 50cr to be released in two phases.

Rs. 25cr was released for the first phase with work starting in tandem. In September 2018, the PWD Minister informed in the Assembly that 70.8km was covered with the first installment and the remaining 45.6km to be covered with the second installment.

In March this year, PWD Minister Tongpang Ozukum told The Morung Express that “good progress” was being made for the remaining 45.6km.
While updates from the other districts were not forthcoming, some 11km of roads were reportedly repaired in Dimapur as part of the government’s 60-day road pledge.

“We covered 11km of roads within the city”, informed the PWD (R&B) official citing office records.

As per the official, the original scope of works was basically “pothole filling” to alleviate bumpy rides. “Actually, in addition to ‘pothole filling’, the works included carpeting entire stretches of roads and even laying a Bailey bridge over the Chathe River,” he claimed.

He added that the Bailey bridge over the Chathe was not included in the initial scope of works but it was built from the fund allocated under the 60-day road pledge.

He also sought to clear a perceived public notion that the bridge was built by the Army. “People seem to have the impression that it was built by the Army but it was built by the state PWD (R&B).”

Construction of the bridge started on February 5, 2018 and opened to traffic on May 5, 2018.