Lifecycle of a development project

The Times of India report about construction of a sewage treatment plant (Mundamveli in West Kochi) says, “At best you can call it official apathy or inefficiency and worst, criminal negligence” (“After sinking Rs 45cr ($6.8m), KSUDP dumps Rs 170cr ($25.6m) sewage plant,” Mar. 31, 2016) [2, 3, 4].

The problem involves deep seated beliefs. A common thread with development projects in Kerala is the way things are planned. Getting a loan is the goal. It is assumed that once the loan/finance is secured, everything else will workout. Getting the loan is considered an achievement. After getting the loan/finance there is little attention or follow through by leadership, resulting in projects floundering.

In this case, Kerala Sustainable Urban Development Project (KSUDP) secured Rs 170 crore loan from the Asian Development Bank (ADB). “As per the original schedule, work on the project began in November 2013, should have been completed in November 2015. After the agreement with the contractor expired in November 2015, KSUDP asked him to continue work. But the contractor demanded a cost revision by around 70 to 100%, despite a request from officials to continue work at the existing rate till the elections are over.”

In addition, “in January this year, the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had also quashed the tender procedures for constructing the treatment plan which was proposed on marshy land. This would have resulted in the destruction of mangroves in the areas.” And ADB, the funding agency, decided to back out due to the inordinate delay in executing the project.

This project planning raises several questions. What are the reasons for the demand to increasing project costs by 70-100 per cent? Was the estimates set too low to secure the loan? Or, was it the result of inadequate project planning skills?

What is needed in development projects is a clear vision of the future benefits the project will bring about. What are the goals? What are the benefits of achieving those goals? What are the steps necessary to achieve those goals? What capabilities are needed to complete those steps? What are the obstacles? What are the resources required? What is the estimated effort/budget? What are the contingencies and how to handle them? Who are the stakeholders? Are their interests aligned with the project goals? These are some of the questions to consider when planning for any project.

Defining the goal as achieving the benefits associated with project completion — not securing loan/finance — and developing a comprehensive operation plan will produce better success with project completion.

With the sewage plant project in disarray, the need still exists — garbage is piling up and pollution problems are getting worse.

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Topics and issues related to Kerala economic development challenges.