PMC survey to find illegal cables in stormwater lines; to file police complaint against violators - Hindustan Times
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PMC survey to find illegal cables in stormwater lines; to file police complaint against violators

Jun 11, 2024 05:12 AM IST

We have never given permission to private parties to lay cables in stormwater lines, says civic official

After discovering that private operators were using stormwater lines to lay unauthorised cables, the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) road department has initiated process to file police complaints against violators. The civic body is also inspecting spots where waterlogging was reported during last week’s rainfall.

Cable at a nallah on Sinhagad Road. (MAHENDRA KOLHE/HT PHOTO)
Cable at a nallah on Sinhagad Road. (MAHENDRA KOLHE/HT PHOTO)

On Saturday, PMC drainage and road department removed optical fibre cables (OFCs) laid illegally in stormwater lines that caused waterlogging on Sinhagad Road.

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Anirudhha Pawaskar, chief superintendent engineer, PMC road department, said, “We have never given permission to private parties to lay cables in stormwater lines. This is the first time that we have found this violation and will file a police complaint against those who are responsible. Cables laid in these lines block water flow. Engineers have been instructed to inspect such possible unauthorised development in their areas and file police complaints.”

Naresh Raikar, deputy engineer, PMC road department said, “The police complaint regarding laying cables in stormwater lines at Sinhagad Road area will be filed by Tuesday.”

Sinhagad Road was one of the worst affected areas when the city reported 117mm rainfall on Saturday as parts of the area were inundated and cables clogged stormwater lines, causing waters to recede after a long time.

Dinkar Gojare, superintendent engineer, PMC drainage department, said, “PMC teams are inspecting waterlogged spots across the city to check if cables are laid in stormwater lines.”

Officials ignore as operators lay cables

PMC has a network of 268 kilometres of stormwater lines across the city. It earns at least 100 crore annually from excavation permissions making it one of the major revenue sources.

In 2015, the PMC road department had introduced a trenching policy for laying cables on stretches to avoid road damage, maintain quality, and reduce repair costs. Since October 2016, PMC implemented a policy to lay cables using trenchless technology, specifically horizontal directional drilling (HDD) that implements trenchless methods. Private mobile companies initially complied and used the new technology. However, due to the high cost of HDD, they soon reverted to the traditional method of digging roads to lay cables, including optical fibre.

Each year, PMC grants permission to various contractors to lay underground cables before and after the monsoon season. The firms include private, semi-government, and government establishments such as Maharashtra State Electricity Distribution Co Ltd (MSEDCL), Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL), Tata Communication, Tata Telecom, Vi, Maharashtra Natural Gas Limited (MNGL), and Jio (Reliance). PMC road department charges 12,192 per running metre from private companies and 6,096 from government agencies.

While Pawaskar claimed that laying cables in stormwater lines was a first-time occurrence, officials of his department said that it must have been done earlier too and the waterlogging incident prompted the authorities to wake up to the serious issue, officials said.

A former PMC drainage department official said, “To save cost and time, telecom companies use stormwater lines to lay cables. As the road department that builds stormwater lines also gives permission to companies to lay cables, it is the former’s duty to act against the violators.”

“Two years ago, we found OFC cables in stormwater lines in KK Market area in Bibvewadi. We removed the cables, but contractors laid it again at night,” an official on condition of anonymity said.

Civic activists demand action

Civic activist Vivek Velankar said, “It is strange that PMC officials, especially from the road department, don’t know who laid OFC in stormwater lines or the name of the company or contractor. There seems to be consent between contractors and civic officials. Instead of paying legal charges to PMC, it is easier for the company to bribe officials. The misuse of stormwater lines is causing waterlogging problems.

“The municipal commissioner should direct officials to check all stormwater lines and take action against guilty officials.”

Vijay Kumbhar, president, Surajya Sangharsh Samiti (SSS), said, “The optical fibre sector is a profitable market. Telephone company operators give contracts to people to lay OFC. Contractors are hand in glove with civic officials to lay illegal cables. PMC should not only remove cables but also file criminal charges against the violators. Citizens should also report such cases to authorities.”

Political parties flay PMC, demand action

Political parties on Monday criticised PMC for poor canal cleaning and inadequate pre-monsoon preparations for the reported waterlogging incidents across the city after Saturday’s rainfall.

Heavy rainfall in the city over the past few days revealed shortcomings in the municipal administration’s pre-monsoon efforts. Despite claims by PMC commissioner Rajendra Bhosale and other officials that nullah cleaning and pre-monsoon preparations were completed, the city experienced waterlogging and flooding in several areas during the first few rains.

Baramati MP Supriya Sule, soon after her election, visited flood-affected areas and urged the civic chief to take necessary actions.

BJP MLA Madhuri Misal met the commissioner and demanded execution of an action plan for nullah cleaning. She also urged the state government to allocate 200 crore fund for taking safety measures.

Congress party officials, including Arvind Shinde, Abhay Chhajed, Ramesh Bagwe, Sanjay Balgude, and others, also met with PMC commissioner and appealed to him to monitor nullah cleaning and encroachment removal projects.

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