As every election approaches, politicians announce big projects in order to garner votes. Once elected, however, many of these projects are promptly forgotten.
In October 2006, just before the last elections to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, Shiv Sena executive chief Uddhav Thackeray had conducted the bhoomipujan for the Shatabdi hospital in Kandivli amidst much fanfare. Five years later, on the eve of the next elections to the local body, only the cafeteria of the hospital has been constructed. Unfazed, Thackeray inaugurated the cafeteria, which had been converted into an out patient department (OPD). The second phase of the hospital is still in the tendering stage.
This is not a one-off incident. Many of the BMC’s big-ticket projects have either failed to take off or been delayed. This translates into a waste of their money, manpower and resources. An analysis of the record of the civic body for the last five years shows that the momentum dies down for a majority of the projects.
Reasons: Either a change in officials heading it, or simply due to a change of heart.
Take, for instance, the ambitious Sujal Mumbai Abhiyan, that was aimed at providing 24x7 water supply to the city. Announced amidst much cheering in 2007, the project aimed at making our water supply relatively free of leakages and contamination. Four years and Rs450 crore later, there is hardly any progress. Unofficial estimates peg the cost of this project at over Rs700 crore. The civic body supplies 3,450 million litres of water daily. Of this, over 800 million litres is wasted because of leakage and theft.
Sitaram Shelar from the Paani Hakk Samiti, who has been studying the implementation of the project, terms it an eyewash. He said: “The BMC has spent more than Rs700 crore on this project, but there is no improvement in the water situation. The BMC still has no report to show what benefits have accrued from the project. If the city’s water losses are still as much as they were five years back, where has all the money gone?”
Another instance is the much-delayed building of pumping stations and overhauling of the 19th century drainage system, as part of the Brimstowad project. First proposed in 1993, its estimated cost was Rs616.3 crore. After 18 years, the project is less than 40 per cent complete, with the cost spiraling almost five times and touching around Rs3,000 crore.
Ironically, the Shiv Sena, which controls the BMC, has put up hoardings of these projects to showcase the hard work that has gone in to transform the city.
Talking to HT earlier, former chief secretary and municipal commissioner V Ranganathan had said that there was an urgent need for the BMC to speed up its projects, instead of keeping crucial projects lingering.
Civic officials privately admit that such delays almost always lead to huge escalation of costs and wastage of time and manpower. Little wonder then that in his maiden budget, BMC chief Subodh Kumar accorded the highest priority to taking up and completing capital works in time.
Additional municipal commissioner Rajiv Jalota said: “We have been repeatedly stressing on the timely completion of all capital works that we have undertaken. Hence, our spending on capital works this year has improved significantly.”
However, the Shiv Sena said the reasons for the delay were rehabilitating migrants and increased cost in providing basic services to them. "In projects like the Middle Vaitarna dam project, or the scientific closure of the dumping grounds, the Centre has delayed granting environmental clearances. This has been a further impediment,” said standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale.