Abotched attempt by the Pune Municipal Corporation (PMC) at laying sewage pipelines recently could mean that a large chunk of funds – received by the civic body under the Jawaharlal Nehru Urban Renewal Mission (JNNURM) – will go down the drain, literally.
PMC officials along with the project consultant are, as usual, downplaying the obvious lack of planning of the project to demonstrate remarkable confidence in creating an engineering ‘marvel’. Meanwhile, work on this project has come to a standstill even as the contractor and PMC engineers are working overtime to find a viable solution.
A nullah flows through it: The pipeline will cross several nullahs along its path to the Sewage Treatment Plant
It was only recently that work on this pipeline, on the 16-km route along the Mula-Mutha river banks had resumed following the partial lifting of Bombay High Court’s two-year-old ban on construction activities on riverbeds.
The plan was to deliver excess untreated sewage through the newly-laid pipe to the PMC’s proposed Sewage Treatment Plate (STP) at Kharadi. This project was funded under the JNNURM’s river restoration and navigation programme with PMC receiving funds to the tune of Rs 70 crore out of Rs 177 crore allotted.
A special cell was formed by the civic body for this work and Additional City Engineer (Traffic Planning) Srinivas Bonala was entrusted with the project.
Earlier this month, during one of their frequent site inspections, PMC officials were shocked to learn that several rainwater carrying nullahs were creating hurdles on the pipeline’s route. Although the PMC refuses to accept it, of the 46 spots where they cross the pipeline’s path, nullahs were obstructing the pipeline at 13 places and causing a connectivity problem.
At some places, PMC managed to lay the pipeline by diverting the flow of nullahs with the belief that it would not lead to flooding during the monsoon. According to river experts, PMC and their contractors are living in a make-believe world.
River expert and environment activist Sarang Yadwadkar, during his visit to the site near Dengale Bridge, pointed out the flaws in the pipeline-laying project. He said, “There is no clarity in the Detailed Project Report (DPR) on the connectivity of the pipeline over the nullahs.
We fail to understand how they are going to connect the ends and maintain the required slope at the same time. If they change the height of the pipeline to allow for the smooth flow of water, the slope of the pipe will be disturbed. And if the pipes are laid down at the same level as the nullah, its flow will be obstructed and can cause flash floods in the upper portion of the nullah.”
He added, “According to our observations, there are 46 major and minor nullahs along this path of the Mutha river. Out of these, 13 get blocked as the nullah runs on the same level as the pipeline.”
Naik Environment Research Institute Limited (NERIL), the consultant for the river restoration and navigation programme, has suggested certain solutions in their revised plan. Awnish Kumar, NERIL’s chief engineer, said, “We are going to construct gabion walls and cascades using the upward slope of the nullah to increase its base, so that the water will flow smoothly over the pipeline.
The water flows only during monsoon, hence the sewage water flowing in the nullah will be accommodated in the pipeline through a slit trap during the rest of the season. The sludge gate will be closed during heavy rains. There is no separate design for each nullah, but our plan is to follow the general design of cascading.”
PMC’s junior engineer Ravindra Padale, who is supervising the work, said, “We have various options to allow smooth flow. First is to construct a big chamber where the connectivity problem arises and join different pipes to release treated sewage into the river. Another is to remove existing big pipes and install two or three smaller ones so that they will not block the path of main pipelines.”
On learning of the proposed action plan, Yadwadkar remained unsatisfied. “If they want to go in for a cascading structure, they will have to obtain an NOC and approval from a competent authority.
When such a huge amount of the taxpayer’s money is involved, such projects should begin only after necessary approvals are in place. River restoration on this scale cannot go ahead on the basis of a general drawing. People residing in low-lying areas will suffer a lot. Who will be responsible for this mess?”
Padale, however, claims, “There is no need for obtaining permission from any authority. Our work won’t cause any damage to nullahs. In fact, the ecology will improve due to gabion structure and the aeration of water through cascades.”
Copyright 2008 Bennett Coleman & Co. Ltd. . All rights reserved.