Days after Andheri flyover slab collapse, no clarity on repairs | Mumbai news - Hindustan Times
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Days after Andheri flyover slab collapse, no clarity on repairs

Jul 09, 2024 09:01 AM IST

A government pleader wrote to the BMC last month, urging it to grant Hiranandani Constructions permission for commercial use of space beneath the flyover

Mumbai: Days after a large slab from a portion of the Andheri flyover on the Western Express Highway (WEH) fell on a car and injured the driver, there’s still no clarity on when the distressed structure will be repaired because it’s embroiled in litigation.

After the July 5 slab collapse, the PWD’s building construction department wrote to HCPL to ensure it clears all the fallen slabs and submits a compliance report with photographs at the earliest. (Raju Shinde/HT Photo)
After the July 5 slab collapse, the PWD’s building construction department wrote to HCPL to ensure it clears all the fallen slabs and submits a compliance report with photographs at the earliest. (Raju Shinde/HT Photo)

HT had reported on June 28 about the Veermata Jijabai Technological Institute’s (VJTI’s) audit report submitted to the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) in April, which said the flyover is in a precarious condition and needs urgent repairs.

The BMC, which took possession of WEH from the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) in November 2022, had written to the government agency on May 6 seeking permission to remove the reinforced cement concrete (RCC) framework below the flyover, where Hiranandani Constructions Pvt Ltd (HCPL) has proposed setting up a shopping complex. The developer has been in charge of maintaining the bridge, also known as Jog Flyover, since 2005.

A day after the HT report was published, a government pleader wrote to the BMC urging it to grant HCPL permission for commercial use of 33,000 square metres of space beneath the flyover, based on the directions of a Bombay High Court order dated June 5, 2001.

In its letter to BMC, the office of the government pleader stated that since the area below the flyover is vacant, “there are beggars, drunkards and other unwanted elements who try to encroach the vacant place at times and create nuisance”. It is necessary to consider public safety as the top-most priority, the letter added.

The letter said that HCPL has been safeguarding the entire stretch of the Andheri Flyover for more than 18 years) and has spent a “substantial amount of money” for it. “The stage-wise, systematic and planned development under the flyover by HCPL will be helpful in beautifying the place under the said flyover,” the letter said. Similarly, the concern with respect to public safety will be resolved after the commercial development, the letter added.

Abhijit Bangar, Additional Municipal Commissioner (Projects), BMC, told HT that the Public Works Department (PWD) had awarded the contract to construct the flyover to Jog Engineering Ltd (JEL) in 1997-98. “Apart from a government grant, they sought loans from a few banks and approached the debt recovery tribunal. There was a settlement, and it was through this settlement that HCPL came into the picture. They took over from JEL and, in 2005, PWD acknowledged possession taken by HCPL. So, from 2005, HCPL is in charge of bridge maintenance.”

Bangar further said there is an arbitration process where HCPL has filed an affidavit stating they have spent 64 crore so far to maintain the flyover. The firm is also requesting around 33,000 square metres of space for commercial use under the bridge to set up a shopping complex, which would help it cover the maintenance cost.

The government pleader, in its letter to BMC, further stated that the state government was executing the deed of lease with HCPL for commercial exploitation of the area below the flyover to enable it to get back public money worth 77.30 crore and put an end to all the litigations concerning the flyover, which have been going on for more than 25 years.

Bangar added that the ownership of the Andheri flyover is still with the PWD on paper. MMRDA handed over the WEH from Bandra to Dahisar to the BMC in November 2022 for maintenance. “So, when BMC took over WEH roads, the Jog flyover wasn’t owned by MMRDA,” said Bangar.

Despite that, in the larger public interest, BMC conducted a structural audit of the flyover in April, which revealed that it requires major repairs, according to an audit report by VJTI.

“The safe thing about the slab collapse was that the structure was not directly attached to the bridge, but a portion to be used as commercial area to be developed. But the fact remains that the original bridge condition is such that it requires major repairs. On the background of the VJTI report, we will issue tender for repairs,” said Bangar.

Meanwhile, after the July 5 slab collapse, the PWD’s building construction department wrote to HCPL to ensure it clears all the fallen slabs and submits a compliance report with photographs at the earliest.

When HT contacted HCPL, a company official said, “The Hiranandani Group, two decades ago, had assisted Jog Engineering Ltd (JEL) which had bagged the contract in raising funds for construction of the flyover. However, due to the company (JEL) being unable to repay the funds, the issue went into litigation.”

When asked about the government pleader’s letter to BMC to hand over the plot below the Andheri flyover for commercial use, the company official said, “No progress has been made so far, and neither has the space below been commercially exploited in any way. We are hopeful that the matter can be resolved soon.”

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