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BMC's Rs 3,535 cr white elephant

Project cost has escalated by almost six fold since it was proposed in 1993 at R616 crore; just 12 of the total 58 works have been completed till date

Four years after its initiation in 2007, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) officials today feel that Rs 3,535.41 crore spent on BRIMSTOWAD project could have been better utilised, had they constructed walls adjoining the major nullahs using the open foundation method rather than the meter piling technique.


Expensive proposition: Based on consultants' advice, the civic body
opted for the expensive meter piling technique


Inside info
According to an official from Storm Water Drainage Department, it were the consultants appointed by the civic body who suggested it to carry out the construction by meter piling technique, mostly used for strengthening foundations of high-rise buildings.

This technique involves digging in deeper than what is normally done in open foundation technique.

"In meter piling, the ground is dug up to 10 to 16 meters, which costs anywhere from Rs 8,200 to Rs 12,800 per sqm. However, if the open foundation technique is implemented, the cost goes down by 40 per cent, as the digging is limited to just eight metres. When the contracts were awarded, the contractors carried out work as per meter piling technique. This resulted in fast consumption of money and only a few kilometres of retaining wall could be constructed."

Official speaks
Rahul Shewale, BMC's Standing Committee chairperson, said, "The money has been wasted on the unnecessary meter piling technique. The work has been delayed due to cash crunch since a long time. We would now be appealing to the central government to sanction more funds for the project. Also, the cost has escalated due to rehabilitation of project-affected people (PAPs), change in technology, increase in the on-site work and time taken by the environment ministry for issuing clearances. Cost will once again escalate, if the work is delayed further. Last year, no work was carried out as most of the money was used in paying the cost variation."

Present status
At present, work worth Rs 1,200 crore is in progress of which Rs 1,000 crore is a special grant from the prime minister, while Rs 187 crore has been invested by the civic body.

From costing Rs 616 crore, when the project was first proposed in 1993, today, it costs a whopping Rs 3,535.41 crore.

To make matters worse, of the total 58 works that were supposed to be carried out in two phases, only 12 have been completed in phase I.

While the number of ongoing projects stands at 36, bidding process for the remaining 10 is still underway.

The work completed till date includes: widening, deepening and training of major open nullahs in the suburbs and the two pumping stations at Haji Ali and Irla nullah each that prevented water-logging to a great extent during monsoon. However, the work on four major pumping stations: Gazdhar bandh in Khar (W), Mogra nullah in Andheri (W), Mahul outfall and Britannia outfall at Reay Road is yet to commence as the civic body is still to acquire land for the same and is also awaiting a no-objection certificate (NOC) from the Mumbai Port Trust (MbPT) to carry out work at the Britannia outfall.

What is Birmstowad?
The Brihanmumbai Storm water Disposal System (BRIMSTOWAD) is a project planned to overhaul Mumbai's water drainage system. The project was conceived after major floods in Mumbai in 1985.Watson Hawksley was appointed as consultants to design the drainage system from Sandhurst Road to Milan subway in 1989. Later, a proposal was submitted in 1993 for a project which involved replacement of drains, setting up of pumping stations at Worli, Haji Ali and Cleaveland Bandar, construction of a five-metre wide road alongside major drains for desilting, removal of obstructions from the drains and rehabilitation of slum dwellers. The project was not acted upon due to lack of funds till the catastrophic floods in 2005.

Rs 616 cr
The proposed cost of the BRIMSTOWAD project in 1993

Rs 1,200 cr
The amount spent till date

The other side
When contacted, Chief Engineer of Storm Water Drainage Department, L S Vhatkar said that the meter piling technique is necessary, but only in those areas where the water current is strong. "This kind of technique is required while executing constructions near the sea. Though there has been a delay, the work is on in full swing. Besides, we have already initiated the bidding process for constructing new pumping stations."
Despite repeated attempts, Additional Municipal Commissioner Aseem Gupta, remained unavailable for comment.

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