India: Chhattisgarh State Road Sector Project
Lack of procurement staff in the executing and/or implementing agencies (EAs/IAs) can undermine the project readiness achieved through advance action.
Following the request made by the state public works department through the national government of India, this project was prepared for approval well ahead of the schedule proposed in the country operations business plan. The construction supervision consultants were recruited under ADB’s advance action facility, about 10 months before the start of loan negotiations. However, grounding the project took longer than anticipated. The benefits of advance contracting could not be realized because the EA was short of staff to undertake procurement-related tasks, and contract awards started only in quarter 1 of 2015, or three years after loan approval. This undermined the advance action’s intention to facilitate timely startup and completion. Especially for sector loan projects with multiple subprojects and contracts, such as this one, it is important that EAs/IAs have an adequate number of skilled procurement staff to ensure project readiness at loan approval and maximize the benefits of advance action.
EAs must ensure that detailed project reports (DPRs), as required in India, are carefully prepared based on site requirements and environmental clearances are obtained during DPR preparation.
Some of this project’s initial delays can also be attributed to the need to revise the DPRs because of discrepancies or deficiencies in design, specifications, and quantities. For example, mismatches in the number of culverts and bridges relative to site conditions were found during project implementation. Additional requirements, including four lanes in urban or habituated sections, were included late in the project, requiring the issuance of variations. Further, because a wildlife sanctuary clearance was not obtained, one road was dropped from the project. In future, EAs should ensure that DPRs are more meticulously prepared to accord with the site requirements. Also importantly, that the required environmental clearances are obtained during DPR preparation.
Including utility shifting in the bill of quantity items to be undertaken by contractors could help ensure the timely delivery of road projects.
Incorporating utility shifting as part of the item-rate contract proved to be effective in the timely delivery of projects in some states of India. In road construction projects, the task of utility shifting is usually contracted out to a third-party entity specialized in utility shifting. However, contractors often utilize or abuse this arrangement as an excuse to delay civil works. To prevent such an occurrence, it may be necessary for utility shifting to be included in the bill of quantity items to be carried out by the contractor.
Chhattisgarh in central India was established in November 2000 through bifurcation, having separated from the state of Madhya Pradesh. At establishment, the state faced serious challenges related to deficient physical and social infrastructure and required a good intrastate road network to complement the existing National Highways network. Most roads had only single or intermediate lane and lacked the capacity to cope with increasing traffic. Moreover, road conditions were poor, leading to reduced usability in the rainy season. In 2003, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided the first loan of $180 million to improve 1,250 kilometers (km) of state roads in Chhattisgarh, and technical assistance (TA) support to reform the state roads sector. The project was successfully implemented and completed in July 2011.
However, following the loan, substantial sections of the state highways and major district roads (MDRs) in the state remained in poor condition and unusable during the rainy season. To further improve the state road network, the Chhattisgarh Public Works Department (CGPWD) sought further ADB assistance through the government of India. In response, ADB approved a $300 million loan for the Chhattisgarh State Road Sector Project in December 2012, well ahead of the schedule proposed in the country operations business plan. The advanced approval was based on the high level of project readiness achieved at project preparation stage, including: (i) the completed detailed design of all sample roads and proposed non-sample roads and (ii) strengthened capacity of CGPWD through an earlier ADB TA.
The project’s envisaged impact was improved connectivity in Chhattisgarh. Its expected outcome was an improved road transport system in the state. Its planned outputs were: (i) state roads reconstructed and rehabilitated; (ii) improved capacity of the CGPWD in procurement, contract management, and project management; and (iii) a road asset management system (RAMS) established. To facilitate these objectives, ADB also approved $1 million capacity development TA attached to the loan.
While some technical designs were adjusted to actual ground conditions, the project scope was not changed during implementation. At completion, it achieved or substantially achieved all its output targets. By 2019, it had reconstructed and rehabilitated 852.97 km of state roads to the standard two-lane, 7 meter (m)-wide carriageways, against a target of 916 km by 2017. It trained 1,253 of the 1,385 CGPWD staff in procurement, contract management, and project management, increasing by 56%, against a target of 50%, the CGPWD staff trained in the foregoing areas of work. The RAMS established through the Public Works Department management information system has been operational since 2017, and the database on road assets was completed in 2019.
The project’s output deliveries improved the state’s road transport system. Although with some delays, all three outcome targets were thus achieved as indicated by the following: (i) the movement of people and goods on roads constructed and/or rehabilitated increased from a daily average of 910,000 vehicle-km in 2011 to 4,798,300 vehicle-km in 2019; (ii) average travel time on project roads decreased by about 37% in 2019 from its 2011 level; and (iii) vehicle operating costs (VOCs) on the project roads decreased by 24.7% for cars and by 24.6% for medium trucks.
The project consequently achieved its envisaged impact. The increased inter-district connectivity and efficient and sustainable state road transport operations that resulted from the project helped spur a significant socioeconomic improvement in Chhattisgarh, with the people enjoying greater access to markets, health, and educational facilities. Girls particularly can reach school more safely and quickly via public transport and bicycle and the time to reach the nearest health centers has decreased by about 30 minutes on project roads.
The government of Chhattisgarh, acting through the CGPWD, was the executing agency. The project implementation unit, established in the CGPWD, was the implementing agency.