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Wednesday June 19, 2024

Works dept told to expedite work on Ghotki-Kandhkot bridge over Indus

By Salis bin Perwaiz
June 04, 2024
An aerial view of the under-construction work on the Ghotki-Kandhkot Bridge project. —  Public Private Partnership Unit Website/File
An aerial view of the under-construction work on the Ghotki-Kandhkot Bridge project. —  Public Private Partnership Unit Website/File

The Sindh government has directed the Works and Services Department to speed up the ongoing work on the Ghotki-Kandhkot Bridge project.

Officials said on Monday that recently a meeting was held where the government authorities reviewed the project, which aims to provide a direct road link between Ghotki and Kandhkot by constructing a bridge over the Indus River to improve the traffic flow and shorten the distance by 120 kilometres.

The meeting was informed that Ghotki which is an emerging industrial area and is on one side of the river and Kandhkot which is located on the proposed Pak-China Economic Corridor is on the other. Ghotki and Khandkot together host one of the largest oil and gas fields, power projects and fertilizer plants in the country.

Moreover, a bridge connecting Ghotki and Kandhkot will reduce this distance from 151 kilometers to 30 kilometers approximately. This will greatly reduce travel time and significantly boost economic activity in this region. The meeting was informed that the revised substantial completion date as verified by an independent engineer is by July 2027.

The meeting was briefed about the scope of work, which also includes, a flyover on N-55 crossing with five small bridges on canals, 85 culverts, one toll plaza, an administrative building, two weigh bridges, electronic toll and ticketing system (ETTM), river training works and the hydraulic model study.

Regarding the operations and maintenance of concession assets (i.e. bridge, road, building structures, toll plaza etc.), it was informed that after thorough public procurement process, a private firm was declared as the preferred bidder by the Technical and Financial Evaluation Committee (TFEC). The project cost (as per financial bid) amounted to Rs14 billion.

The Concession Agreement was signed between the Works and Services Department and the Concessionaire i.e. Ghotki Kandhkot Road and Bridge Company Private Limited being the Special Purpose Company and the Vehicle (SPV) formed by the preferred bidder. The Independent Engineer and Independent Auditor jointly issued ‘Commencement Certificate’ also.

The construction works commenced in August 2020, through equity funding by both the parties on a pari-passu basis. The financial close (bank financing) being condition precedent was deferred to initiate construction works through equity funding.

Financial close

The Project Finance (Rs9.8 billion) term sheet was signed on 4th November 2021 by the Concessionaire with the project lenders. The construction works were initially funded through equity contribution of both Concessionaire and the GoS, which was fully utilized in November 2021. Since, the arrangement of financial close is GoS obligation, therefore, a short term loan of Rs1 billion was extended by GoS in December 2021, for the project in order to utilise the low flood season.

Due to increase in project scope and cost in pursuance of IRC decision in November 2022, and later a Sindh cabinet meeting in March 2023 wherein it was decided to increase the quantum of Project Finance facility from lenders, the financial close terms were re-negotiated with the banks.

Subsequently, a revised term sheet was executed on 7th July 2023, with the lenders for Project Finance amounting to RS19 billion.

The GoS and Concessionaire executed amended Concession Agreement and Amended EFU agreement in February 2024 to reflect increased project cost and equity and the debt funding. The lenders were onboard in providing their feedback on these amended agreements.

Presently, lenders are seeking firm-up approvals from credit committees to achieve financial close (signing of financing agreements) which is expected by May 2024.

Physical progress

The meeting was informed that the Section-I (Bridge Approach Road at Ghotki) aggregate Physical Progress is 50%. The Formation of Embankment with River Sand, confined on both sides with A4 Soil is in progress for Section-I, with physical progress of about 89%, whereas sub grade 85% and sub base course 79%. The all three bridges over Jari Wah, Ghota Feeder Canal and Tibbi Minor are completed, while the construction of 38 pipe culverts at Ghotki side have been completed, including the inlets and the outlets.

Section-II

The suspended works in wake of the degenerated law and order issues were resumed on 26th January, 2024. Moreover, no transoms have been casted till to date, inside the riverine area. It was informed that the four police pickets were established and are completed and handed over to the District Police Kashmore and Kandhkot. The construction of the earthen platform is in progress for the 5th and 6th Police Picket.

Section-III

The physical progress on the bridge approach road for Section-III on the Kandhkot side is 87%, embankment, sub-grade 87%, sub-base course 86%, Aggregate Base Course 84% and the Asphaltic Base Course 83%. The two bridges over Haibat Shakh and the BS Feeder Canal are completed respectively, while the construction of five pipe culverts on Kandhkot side are completed, including the inlets and the outlets.

However, on the instructions of the DC Kashmore and the Kandhkot, the Concessionaire resumed the activities but locals forcibly stopped the site works under instructions of their landlord (the land-affected person).

Law & order

The project construction activities have been seriously hampered by constant attacks by local criminals and dacoits on workers and machinery. The Concessionaire suspended construction works since May 2023 till 25th January 2024, due to abduction of three workers by the local criminals, which were later successfully recovered from the Katcha area of Kandhkot by the Sindh police.

Deployment of LEAs

For the ongoing site activities at the Indus River bridge, Rangers and police personnel are available round the clock with two pick-ups at site, serving on a rotation basis for day and night shifts. Moreover, the patrolling at night, from the base camp to the site has not yet started, as the same will ensure the safe and secure movement of executing and supervising staff within the stretch.

The meeting was informed that, round-the-clock patrolling along with their presence is required, for smooth working and progressive pace to avoid any further delays in the completion of the project.

Officials said that on 18th February, 2024 a meeting was convened in the office of the DC Kandhkot, which was attended by the Station Commander Sindh Rangers, SSP Kashmore and the Concessionaire, where the SSP said feeding and fuelling charges of the police teams may be provided so that they could start the patrolling round the clock.

However, it was informed that no such budget is part of the project cost, but they may prepare their proposal and submit the same to the office of the secretary W&S for approval from the competent forum(s).

The DC submitted the requirement of feeding and fueling charges for security of bridge site, camps and the approach roads by the district police, without any budgetary details.