Project Sammaan remains a tale of two cities, with construction related activities continuing at a feverish pace for the Community Toilet facilities in Cuttack whereas matters for the same facility type in Bhubaneswar remaining stalled as we continue waiting for the Administrative Approval to be granted by the H&UD Department. Only once this approval is granted can the contracts with NBCC be signed, and the pre-construction activities commence.
Over the past few days, there has been some cause for optimism in regards to Bhubaneswar’s Community Toilets: the file has moved from the Finance Department back to the H&UD for what we have been told is the final round of review. Evidently, there are but a few, relatively minor, pending concerns that still need to be addressed. Most notable of these from the government’s perspective, and justifiably so, is the transfer of funds that the project team is contributing towards the facility construction. That said, such a concern can easily be assuaged with a quick conversation, which we are hoping to have with the requisite officials in the coming days.
Naturally, and as has been the case with many components of Project Sammaan, the government queries have led the project team to revisit pending aspects of the project in an effort to identify, and get in front of, any other potential issues that could impact the initiative. This in turn has shifted our focus to the financial considerations of the project; especially poignant in Bhubaneswar given that budgetary constraints last year translated to a reduction of total Community Toilet facilities to be built from 60 to only 26 in the initial phase.
Financing the facility construction is a joint effort between the municipal corporations and the project team, with funds from various programs being mobilized to ensure sanitation facilities are provided to communities that need them the most. That being said, there are timelines that must be adhered to in order to avail certain funding opportunities; budgets vary year to year so the continued delays in commencing construction-related activities could impact the financial resources required to build the Sammaan facilities.
As assurances were made that the issues affecting the Administrative Approval of Bhubaneswar’s Community Toilet facilities were soon to be overcome, the team shifted the focus of our collective anxiety to the funding. After all, it’s difficult to imagine anything worse than hearing that years of effort, and the innumerable challenges faced and overcome along the way, were for naught due to missing a deadline for utilizing funding. This, in turn, led to some frantic phone calls and meetings with our government partners to ensure that the financial support currently allocated to Project Sammaan was in no way being jeopardized by the continued delays in securing approvals.
Thankfully, after several nerve-racking days awaiting a response on this, senior officials at the BMC provided assurances that there is no risk of losing any of the funds currently on the books for the Community Toilet facilities. All that remains now is the Administrative Approval, after which all facilities in both cities earmarked for the initial phase of construction will be good to go, and the communities will finally get the improved sanitation solutions Sammaan will provide that has been merely a dream these past three years.