Toorsa River dredging contractors appeal to MoAF minister

Toorsa River dredging contractors appeal to MoAF minister

Three companies who have ventured into dredging works in the Amochhu (Toorsa) River bank are have appealed to the minister of agriculture and forests to allow them to sell their stocked river bed materials (pebbles) after Phuentsholing Thromde gave a deadline to the companies earlier to clear the materials.

This was to avoid affecting ongoing Phuentsholing Township Development Project (PTDP).  Chhukha Construction still has time till December end but the company feels it will be unable to meet the deadline.

The contractors have started with construction embankment walls along the left bank of the river to protect the town from flooding. The 2016 flood has affected business communities and settlements along the river bank.

The contractors want their dredged materials to be disposed since they are not required in the Phuentsholing Township Development Project but they are yet to be. The contractors are willing to sell to the project’s contractor AFCONS Infrastructures Limited if the rates are met and had earlier agreed to leave the site once their investment in embankment works are recovered.

So far, two rounds of tripartite meetings were held in August and September 2018. During the second meeting, the contractors agreed to quantify the remaining materials at the site after they received an extended deadline to clear the materials. The contractors have also agreed not to make further claims beyond the extended deadline after which the materials remain state property.          

It all started with the Phuentsholing Thromde awarding the diversion of the river to its original course to Rigsar Construction Private Limited in December 2016 and later to two other companies, Chhukha Construction Private limited and Yangkhil Construction Private Limited without financial bearings from the Thromde. Thromde later wrote to Department of Forest and Park Services, under agriculture and forests ministry and Department of Geology and Mines, under economic affairs ministry requesting to allow the three companies to dispose the dredged materials, which was agreed by both the departments.

After completing embankment walls, these companies formally started disposing their dredged materials from 2017.

However, with the commencement of PTDP, there has been a call to stop disposing the dredged materials as it is required by the project.

“After the meeting, the companies expedited their export through reduced rates and increasing the fleet to clear the site. The pace has almost doubled after that. Despite our effort, we could not clear the site. We just need time extension,” a contractor said.

After assessing the quantity, time extension given by Thromde was unsatisfactory for the contractors to clear the stocked materials. Chhukha was given three months’ time extension and Rigsar, 18 months. Actually Rigsar was supposed to get 56 months and Chhukha, 18 months. “If we have got the required extension, we would not appeal,” a contractor said.

The contractors are ready to clear the site once they finish exporting the stocked materials. If the materials are required by AFCONS and their export rate met, they will be able to dispose the materials on time. “But we should be allowed to sell whatever is stocked,” he said.

The project requires 70,000 cubic meter of stone aggregates. 30% is already used. But Rigsar has 300,000 cubic meter of aggregates at stock. Also they have enough boulders required for the project. The contractors said that the lifting of river bed materials have not hampered ongoing PTDP which Construction Development Corporation Limited(CDCL) has said otherwise.

After AFCONS Infrastructure gave the sub-contract to Rigsar Construction, the company has requested companies involved in dredging works to retain materials required for the project.  In a letter addressed to the agriculture and forest minister, Rigsar Construction has requested to grant permission to export the balance stock materials if CDCL declines to buy at mutually agreed price. 

Agriculture and forests Lyonpo has written to the Druk Holdings and Investments to convene a tripartite meeting between the government, DHI and the contractors to assess the type of materials which would not be required for the township development project and can be exported by the contractors.

The contractors claim that the embankment walls have in fact helped to start PTDP works and stopped flooding in the area.

Krishna Ghalley from Phuentsholing