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Kerala - Thiruvananthapuram Printer Friendly Page   Send this Article to a Friend

Review of BOT pact likely

By T. Nandakumar

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM, FEB. 15. The Government has offered to work out a package to salvage the BOT (Build-Operate-Transfer) pact between the City Corporation and the private company operating the garbage processing plant at Vilappilsala.

The set of proposals includes a financial package to ensure profitable operation of the plant and the setting up of a sanitary landfill to dispose of the non-biodegradable wastes piling up at the site.

The row between the BOT partners came to a head last year, with the operators threatening to pull out citing mounting losses. The Government, which stepped in at this juncture, had set up a four-member committee with the Local Administration Secretary, the Corporation Secretary, the Mayor and a representative of the Poabs Group to review the terms of the agreement between the Corporation and the operating company. However, the Government is understood to be averse to the idea of being included as a partner in the project.

Meanwhile, the empowered committee of officials for the development of the capital city is preparing a set of proposals aimed at addressing the revenue shortfall faced by the BOT project. The proposals are based on a study conducted by the Infrastructure Development Finance Corporation which had identified a revenue gap in the operations of the plant.

The company has been offered a package to ensure a 10 per cent rate of return on its operations. A revenue subsidy may also be considered to bring the project back on track. The Poabs Group alleges that the Corporation had gone back on its word to supply as many as 350 tonnes of waste every day, provide 10 acres of additional land for the plant and construct approach roads to the project site.

Corporation sources said the empowered committee is in the process of identifying a site to set up the sanitary landfill. The plant has no facility to handle plastic and other non-biodegradable wastes. Local people complain that they are exposed to the noxious fumes caused by occasional burning of these wastes. The proposed landfill will be operated by the Corporation or any other agency and will not be the responsibility of the company. Civic officials said the Corporation had offered to set up the sanitary landfill on the land acquired at Vilappilsala. They hoped the project would be taken up under the Capital Region Development Programme.

While the Corporation has acquired a total of 30 acres for the project, only 10 acres has been handed over to the Poabs Group. Corporation sources said the remaining land would be transferred on the basis of the renewed agreement. The approach road to the plant is yet to be constructed though the Corporation had identified a shorter route via Puliyarakonam.

The Mayor, J. Chandra, said the Government had agreed to extend external support to the Corporation in ensuring smooth operation of the garbage plant. Pooh-poohing the company's threat to pull out of the project and invoke the penalty clause to claim compensation for short supply of garbage, she said the existing BOT pact, which was prepared during the term of the last council, would not stand up to judicial scrutiny since it did not have the approval of the council. She said a review of the agreement was on the cards.

Last week, the Corporation Council finalised an agreement with the Agricultural department for the transfer of a Rs.40 lakhs grant from the Central Government for municipal solid waste disposal. The amount is to be disbursed as agricultural subsidy for mechanised composting.

The Opposition UDF in the City Corporation council feels that a faction within the LDF leadership is abetting the company's attempt to appropriate land in the name of the project. The Opposition has urged the Government to take over the plant and hand it over to the Corporation.

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