Infrastructure projects at a standstill

 thehindu.com  04/06/2020 18:58:27 

The lockdown following COVID-19 outbreak has brought to a halt a number of big-ticket projects in the city and the deadlines of many of them are likely to be extended by a few months.

Public health is an obligatory duty of the civic body and Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) is at the frontline of the fight against the pandemic in the city. As a result, all other civic works, including infrastructure projects, have taken a back seat. The entire civic administration is now focused only on COVID-19. People working in other departments like roadworks, projects and education have been redeployed to fight the crisis at hand, said one of the special commissioners, BBMP.

For now, work on all ongoing civic works - TenderSURE and whitetopping of roads under the Smart City Project and redoing of roads dug up by BWSSB - have come to a halt.

Most of the labour working on these projects have moved back to their villages. As per our estimation today, most of the civic works will likely suffer a delay of at least three months. Even if the lockdown is lifted on April 15, life will not return to normal. BBMP will continue to be at the forefront fighting the health crisis at least for the next three to four months. Labourers will also take a few weeks to return to the city and resume work, even if lockdown is lifted, as there is panic over the pandemic among them. As of now, the situation is still fluid, said a senior joint commissioner in BBMP.

Underground cabling, Smart City

The Bescoms underground cabling work too has come to a standstill. The project, which was announced in the 2018 budget, is meant to help reduce power outages as well as prevent electrical accidents that are not uncommon with the overhead electricity infrastructure. The power utility had already started digging up roads - a major source of inconvenience for citizens in many parts of the city. Bescom had announced that it will undertake underground cabling of HT lines of nearly 7,000 km, apart from some of the 11,000 km LT lines.

Another project that has contributed in a major way to dug-up and dusty roads is the Smart City project, for which Bengaluru has the dubious distinction of snail-paced implementation apart from under utilisation of funds. The city has not seen completion of even a single project taken up under the Smart Cities Mission.

At least 15 roads in the city were suppose to be redeveloped under this according to TenderSURE specifications. Of them, many roads including Infantry Road and Raja Ram Mohan Road have been dug up on either sides. The completion of work on these roads is expected to miss its deadline.

The revamp of Cubbon Park, which will include the redevelopment of pathways and lotus pond, etc, was supposed to begin in March, but could not be started.

Expansion plans at KIA

Apart from other big transport projects, expansion works at Kempegowda International Airport (KIA) have come to a halt. Based on the directions from the Health Department, Bangalore International Airport Limited (BIAL) has temporarily stopped major infrastructure works that include construction of Terminal II, widening main access roads and others. Last year, the BIAL had announced that it is investing 13,000 crore for upgrading infrastructure.

As per its plan, the BIAL is widening the 1.4 km main access road from Trumpet interchange to the airport. Existing 2+2 lanes road will be upgraded to 5 lanes on either side and work had begun last year. To facilitate the construction works the BIAL has provided a secondary access road to reach the Terminal I. Recently, the BIAL closed some of the parking lots to facilitate the construction work at forecourt of Terminal I. It had advised the air passengers to use the public transport to reach the Airport.

The BIAL has also put on hold construction work of Terminal II. As per the plan, terminal 2 will have forest filled with local trees, scented trees and other features. The terminal is coming in an area of 2, 55,645 square meters area, the first of the project is expected to be operational by next year. The BIAL had claimed that it would transplant more than 7,000 trees coming coming on the way of developmental works.

(This is first of two-part series on impact of lockdown on infrastructure work.)

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