Mumbai: Storm drains left hanging as tenders surface seven years late

22 February,2024 06:58 AM IST |  Mumbai  |  Prajakta Kasale

Despite the high court’s urgency, only sewer manholes get attention

The BMC also cut down its ambition to install stainless steel nets in manholes. The durability of stainless steel nets is more than ductile iron. Representation Pic

Key Highlights

Following bold assertions in the high court last June, the BMC has initiated the tendering process to install safety nets within manholes. However, this effort is primarily focused on sewer networks, neglecting stormwater drains. The decision to implement nets arose after Dr Amrapurkar's tragic drowning in an open stormwater drain manhole in August 2017.

Despite assurances to install nets in all manholes post the Bombay High Court's dissatisfaction in June 2023, the tender process has only commenced now. The BMC has covered less than six per cent of manholes over the past seven years. Presently, in response to the high court's rebuke in June 2023, the BMC is issuing tenders at ward levels, albeit exclusively for sewer line manholes.

"We are floating tenders at ward levels to fix safety nets on manhole covers of sewer lines as per the instructions. The specifications such as dimensions, material, and cost have been given by the Sewer Department. Depending upon the number of sewer line manholes, the estimated cost of tenders will vary ward-wise," said an assistant commissioner of a Western Suburb ward. However, the senior officials do not have an explanation for choosing sewer line manholes to stormwater drains. P Velarasu, additional commissioner of the BMC, didn't reply to calls or messages.

Though the decision to install covers on nets was taken at least eight months ago and the SOP for selection of nets, cost, and other instructions was sent to wards in October 2023, the tenders weren't floated till now due to technicalities in the provision of budget to install nets. The average cost of a net is around R8,050 and the overall cost will be approximately Rs 80 crore.

The BMC also cut down its ambition to install stainless steel nets in manholes. The durability of stainless steel nets is more than ductile iron. But the cost was too much so finally, the BMC opted for ductile metal. Even the pilot project for installing an alarm-based cover was scrapped.

High court order

The Bombay High Court directed the BMC to install protective nets in the manholes in 2018 and expressed strong displeasure in June 2023 that the civic body hasn't come up with a plan for this. BMC earlier opted for stainless steel for nets as its durability is longer, but now tenders are floated for ductile metal. The BMC also experimented with installing smart manhole covers at 14 locations. In these, if a person tries to lift the manhole cover, an alarm will sound at the spot as well as in the control room located at Byculla. But the project was halted as the cost of each smart cover was around Rs 1 lakh. The cost of a net is on average Rs 8,000 but varies from Rs 4,000 to Rs 22,000 depending upon the size, shape, and location of the manholes.

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