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BMC still has many promises to keep

Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation, the country’s richest civic body, is gearing up to present yet another budget for the next financial year, along with a slew of fresh new promises. But what about the promises it made last year, and the year before the last, so it could stake claim to thousands of crores of the taxpayers’ hard-earned money for the sake of ambitious projects?

MiD DAY has found out that many of these projects, which the civic body had promised would have a major impact on the city, are still confined to files or are far from completion. Even the use of funds allotted to various departments hardly amounts to 21 per cent of last year’s Rs 26,581 crore budget.

Byculla zoo
Byculla zoo
A project to revamp the 150-year-old Byculla Zoo was planned as far back as 2006, but is still far from the finish line. The original plan was to transform the dusty and lacklustre zoo into a facility at par with international standards at the cost of Rs 450 crore. Facilities included a swanky restaurant with a glass wall separating guests from the cheetah enclosure, separate sections for species from different continents, a skywalk and an underground parking lot. In 2011, the extravagant plans were trimmed to fit a more modest Rs 150 crore budget. The project, planned in four phases, is still creeping forward at a sluggish pace, with only phase-I having been completed. The much-required revamping of the animal enclosures and cages will (hopefully) take place in phase-II.

Middle Vaitarna Dam
Middle Vaitarna Dam

Following the recommendation of the Chitale Committee back in 1993 to reduce the huge gap between the demand and supply in the city’s water supply, BMC started working on the project in 2007 on the ambitious Middle Vaitarna dam, pegged at over Rs 2,000 crore. Earlier slated to be completed by December 2011, the completion date was pushed back to May 2012, but then was stretched further to April 2013. Over the years, the cost of the project has risen from the original Rs 1,600 crore to Rs 2,000 crore. Once completed, the volume of water supplied from the Vaitarna River to the city will increase by a whopping 455 million litres every day.

Pumping stations
Pumping stations

The most catastrophic natural calamity weathered by the city during the 2005 deluge prompted BMC to plan the construction of eight pumping stations to prevent waterlogging during monsoons. The fact-finding committee recommended eight pumping stations, one each at Haji Ali, Lovegrove, Cleveland Bunder, Britannia outfall, Guzdarbandh, Irla Nullah, Mahul Creek and Mogra Nullah - each at a cost of around Rs 80 crore. In the first phase, four were to be completed by 2008. Only two have been managed so far at Haji Ali and Irla. The pumping stations will help divert water when high tides coincide with heavy rainfall.

Cement and concrete roads
The project for concretization of roads was also planned way back in the late 90s, and till date, more than half of the city’s roads remain untouched by concrete. The roads department enjoyed a 106 per cent increase in their budget last year, but floated tenders for the concretization for the remaining roads just a month ago. At least Rs 1,000 crore is allocated for the concretization of roads every year.

Officials explain
Asked about the delay in completing its major projects, municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte said, “Yes, there is a deadline and we try to finish work in the given time frame.” Regarding the Middle Vaitarna project, Kunte added, “There was a delay because of the construction of a new bridge as an alternative for the old one that will be flooded over after the dam is completed.”

Lakshman Vhatkar, chief engineer of the Storm Water Drain department, said, “There has been a delay in making the Cleveland Bunder pumping station as we were waiting for certain NOCs. We have received them now. The Lovegrove pumping station will also be partly open by April and the other part will be opened shortly afterwards. We have received the NOCs for the Britannia pumping station and the work will be started soon.”

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