Shoddy construction? Temporary dam collapses near key Mumbai pumping station

A month after our report warning against an impending mishap due to shoddy construction practices at Lovegrove storm water pumping station, a cofferdam broke on Saturday

So what if the monsoon has come and gone? Thanks to civic contactors and their dubious practices, we can still have floods. As predicted by this paper last month, poor construction procedures at one of the city’s main storm water pumping stations came close to putting lives at risk after a makeshift embankment caved in.

Lovegrove pumping station in Worli. File pic
Lovegrove pumping station in Worli. File pic

On Saturday, a cofferdam a temporary watertight enclosure built in a water body to allow for a dry working environment was washed away at Lovegrove pumping station in Worli, nearly causing flooding on the site even in these relatively dry times, after water was released unexpectedly from sewer pumps in the vicinity.

mid-day’s November 11 report detailing the poor work at the pumping stations
mid-day’s November 11 report detailing the poor work at the pumping stations

The quality of the pump’s construction, which is being done by the consortium M/s Unity/M&P/WPK, is already under scanner alongside the Cleveland Bunder pumping station, because of their low grade.

Last month, an in-depth report by this paper had exposed the haphazard planning and shoddy design of these two crucial pumps, which were commissioned in 2011 and whose implementation is riddled with countless anomalies.

The report stated how the Unity Infrastructure-led consortium used sub-standard material, often sourced from unauthorised suppliers, and violated many tender conditions, not only causing the civic exchequer losses, but also putting lives at risk in flood-prone areas of the city.

The latest mishap was caused after the civic sewerage department redirected drainage flow from pumps around the main 1,400-mm sewer line behind Worli’s Atria mall to dry them off in order to carry out some mending work. This was essentially done to repair pump numbers 201, 202, 203 and 204. An additional outlet was allowed from pumps 205, 206, 207 and 208.

When Saturday’s light shower created pressure in addition to the released sewerage, the coffer constructed by Unity was washed away completely, not just putting lives in peril but also causing monetary loss to the BMC. While the contractor sought to blame the civic sewerage operation (SO) department, SO officials said the cofferdam’s poor quality caused it to wash away with the flow of the water.

“The contractor is trying to dump the blame on us, but the fact is, he has all along carried out poor quality work around Atria mall. Ours was just a regular repair work and a nominal release of sewerage could not have caused this collapse of cofferdam,” said an SO official who did not want to be named.

This is not the first time that construction of this cofferdam has come in for scrutiny. For the past two monsoons that the city has seen, the BMC has been demanding that Unity remove the cofferdam to create smooth flow in the drain, but it has refused to do so.

An application to file an FIR against the abysmal work had been submitted in May by the civic executive engineer of the storm water drains (SWD) department directing criminal action against Unity Infrastructure’s managing director Kishor Avarsekar, vice-chairman Abhijit Avarsekar and project manager Nitin Parmane.

But the draft was put in abeyance, even as a defiant contractor did not fully remove the cofferdam, causing waterlogging in several crowded localities of Central Mumbai, as pointed out in the mid-day investigation. Even a vigilance report of 2013 had observed that repair of Atria mall’s compound wall and construction of Miter gate around the coffer “was not according to approved methods.”

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