Thursday, August 8, 2013

'Coastal regulatory zone nod delay discouraged MTHL bidders'

READ MORE Rupee|no doubt|Dileep


MUMBAI: The absence of bids for the proposed 22-km sea link between Sewri and Nhava seems to be a glaring example of delayed clearancesby the government discouraging infrastructure majors.

It has come to light that till a few days before the final bidding for the Rs 10,000 crore Mumbai Trans Harbour Sea Link (MTHL), the nodal agency for the project-the MMRDA-had no coastal regulatory zone (CRZ) clearance.

Insiders said the lack of CRZ clearance played a key role in discouraging the four consortia that were expected to go for the project. None of them submitted a bid; a fifth consortium had dropped out days before the deadline.

In February, MMRDA chief engineer Sharad Sabnis wrote a letter (copy with TOI) to Lalit Kapur, director, Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), requesting the CRZ clearance for the project to facilitate better response to the bidding.

Sabnis made the request in the absence of a minute CRZ map-on the scale of 1:4000-of the project.

"CRZ for MTHL was discussed between the two agencies. You instructed to submit the map indicating CRZ zones superimposed with project alignment on a scale of 1:4000. MTHL is at advanced stage of bidding with five bidders in the fray. The CRZ clearance will facilitate positive response from bidders," said Sabnis to Kapur in his letter.

Sabnis also stated that the MMRDA had already approached the IRS, Chennai, for the preparation of the map and had decided to submit it before the commencement of construction work.

"It is, therefore, requested to issue the CRZ clearance in view of the bidding process," said Sabnis at the end.

In June, the MoEF again wrote a letter (copy with TOI) to metropolitan commissioner U P S Madan urging for the map as it was mandatory for CRZ clearance.

"Kindly refer to the MoEF request regarding the CRZ map of the project on the scale of 1:4000. It may be informed that the proposal for MTHL was recommended by the experts' appraisal committee (EAC of MoEF) stipulating certain conditions. However, the 'HTL/LTL map of 1:4000 scale' superimposing the project alignment on CRZ zones has been sought as it is mandatory under the CRZ notification, 2011 for grant of CRZ clearance. The said map has not been received so far. Kindly expedite the submission of the map," said Singh's letter to Madan which is also in TOI's possession.

MMRDA sources said the clearance letter was formally received only four to five days before August 5, the final date for MTHL bidding.

Sabnis and MMRDA spokesperson Dilip Kawathkar claimed the MMRDA had received the CRZ clearance on July 19 as submission of the map was a mere formality. They said since the clearance was received "well in advance", it was not a reason for the bidders to shy away.

It may also be recalled that one of the consortia IRB-Hyundai announced withdrawal from MTHL bidding process citing government's 'unfriendly' attitude towards investors wanting to develop capital-intensive infra projects. No doubt, as MMRDA officials had cleared, that the investors were also skeptical about their and project's profitability, financial sustainability, overall economic slowdown, falling rupee in international market, traffic usability in the long run and difficulties faced by banking institutions in offering longer repayment period as the reasons behind the failure of the bidding process.

The other four shortlisted consortia - Cintra-Soma-Srei, Gammon Infrastructure Projects-OHLConcessions-GS Engineering, GMR Infrastructure-L&T-Samsung C&T Corporation and Tata Realty and Infrastructure-Autostrade Indian Infrastructure Development-Vinci Concessions Development - were in the race for bidding but did not submit bids by Monday (August 5) 3 pm. This was the third consecutive failure of the state government in attracting bidders for this mega project which promised decongestion of Mumbai and development of Navi Mumbai in a big way.

Environment activist Dileep Nevatia said it was shocking to see the key project not receiving CRZ clearance well in advance before being put to international bidding.