The ambitious Middle Vaitarna dam project, which will supply an additional 455 million litres of water to Mumbai once complete, has met another untoward hurdle.
The Brihamumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), which has stepped up efforts to complete the project this year, has had to deal with a host of delays in the completion of a road-bridge that is being constructed near the dam site by the public works department (PWD). The bridge needs to be completed before the dam can hold water to its full capacity, as the bridge that currently stands there would get submerged if the water was released.
A proposal to increase the cost for the work by 40% was approved by the civic standing committee last week. The contract for the work was first awarded in January 2007.
With the PWD department missing the original March 2011 deadline and a subsequent two-year delay in completing construction work on the bridge, the BMC has been forced to shell out an additional 6.8 crore.
Rajiv Jalota, additional municipal commissioner (projects) said: “The PWD said the cost escalated because of to changes in construction material and other labour costs. We approved the revision as we did not want the work on the bridge to be held up.” Jalota added that the BMC had also written to the PWD to take necessary legal action against the dawdling contractor.
“The contractor for the work is appointed by the PWD, so it is up to them to take action,” said Jalota.
Apart from the cost escalation, the BMC said the delay and slow construction work have kept them from using the dam to its full capacity.
“We have been holding meetings with the PWD every month to monitor the progress of the bridge. They have now assured us that work will be completed by May,” said Jalota.
However, the opposition said the BMC was irresponsible in approving the increased costs. “It is condemnable that this proposal was approved in spite of the severe allegations made recently by the Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) against cost variations in civic projects. It does not matter if it is a PWD contractor, cost escalations need to be brought down by the BMC,” said Sandeep Deshpande, MNS corporator and a member of the standing committee.