Four days after water gushing down a hill near Katraj tunnel swept away a mother and her one-and-a-half-year child on Thursday, the blame game continues.
According to civic officials, a month before the mishap, they had drafted a letter to the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI), intimating them of six dangerous spots at the highway, including Shindewadi, where jetting rain water from the hills could pose potential hazards.
A civic official said that the storm water drainage system, which is the responsibility of the NHAI, is missing at the 26-km patch between Katraj – Balewadi on the highway.
In the ongoing highway expansion work, NHAI has not made any provisions for the flow of water in case of torrential rains, said the civic official. Along with NHAI officials, the Municipal commissioner and other PMC officials conducted several visits at the highway, including junctions that connect DP and bypass roads of the PMC.
“During the visit, we identified six spots – Shindewadi, Warje, Chandani Chowk, Bawdhan, Sutarwadi, Wadgoan -- and demanded that they [NHAI] make provision for the flow of water and also construct a retaining wall between the service road and the highway.
The first letter regarding this issue was sent six months ago. Last month, we had reminded them of our concerns again, telling them to make arrangements for the storm water drains in the ongoing highway expansion work. But, we have not received any reply from NHAI yet,” said Pramod Nirbhavane, PMC, additional city engineer (roads).
Till now, PMC officials have sent six letters regarding the construction of retaining wall and storm water drainage system. According to the civic body, during any highway project or expansion plan, it is expected that the implementing agency take into consideration the service roads and connecting junctions of the city.
PMC officials, however, claim that NHAI never gave a thought to the existing DP roads. “At many places, there is sizeable height difference between the highway and DP road. NHAI had assured that they will construct a retaining wall, but the agency executing the work has dumped construction debris at the streams that run along the highway.
Moreover, the firm tasked with implementing the expansion work has refused to make any changes or carry out any additional work because of the cost escalation. NHAI is the supreme authority, and they should make additional budgetary provision for that,” said PMC official.
Dilip Bhujbal, SP (highways), who also was part of the team that visited the spots, said, “The measurement for the additional lanes and service road is not accurate. Shoulders along the side of the road are non-existent and contractors don’t know the exact border of the roads.”
The other side
Dhananjay Tawade, regional head of NHAI, who arrived in the city from Nagpur to visit the spot, said, “Our team surveyed the mishap spot and we are going to appoint a special team of geology experts to study the hill patch of the highway. Only after the study, we could ascertain the problem. The tunnel was constructed six years ago, this is first incident, which means the structure of highway is not faulty. The incident has occurred due to the development work taking place on the hills around the tunnel in the last couple of years. After the study report is submitted, we will take immediate action.”