Ditches, sand, stone and a street that one barely wants to step onto: This is Bengaluru’s Church Street today – and it’s been this way for several months now. In fact, it’s been nine months since the construction of a brand new cobblestoned Church Street began under the TenderSURE project, and so far, the work seems far from complete.
The contractors of the project have missed three deadlines so far, thanks to the laxity in carrying out maintenance work by Bengaluru’s civic agencies.
The construction, which began on February 22, was to be completed by July 1. Bengaluru Development Minister KJ George had extended the deadline to August 1, citing heavy rain. The BBMP again extended the deadline to December 1.
So, what exactly is happening? Why is the work taking so much longer than expected?
Discovering British era drain
When the work commenced in February, the project’s contractor had not expected to unearth a horrifying underground system of sewers, electric cables and drinking water pipelines, which he says is the root cause for the delay.
Picture courtesy: Naresh V Narasimhan
“We thought that the project could be completed soon. Church Street is smaller compared to other roads. When we began digging the road near the Vasudev Adigas area, we could hear the sound of gushing water. When we dug deeper, we realized that the entire road which connects MG Road to Church Street near Vasudev Adigas was actually a drain built by the British,” Muthubabu, the contractor in-charge of the project says.
According to Architect Naresh Narasimhan, this drain was connected to the tank near MG Road. “You know where the Parade Grounds are currently? That used to be a tank and this road which connects MG Road and Church Street was a drain. That’s why we could hear the sound of gushing water when we began digging,” Narasimhan said.
This was just the beginning of numerous hurdles the contractors faced while re-constructing the 550m-long Church Street.
A mess inside
When the road was dug up, the contractors found decades-old sewer lines which were broken, storm water drains filled with sewage, a broken Cauvery water pipeline and numerous electricity cables.
Picture courtesy: Naresh V Narasimhan
“We had to fix a lot of the underground connections before beginning road construction. Our job was to lay a new road. The biggest problem was that there was no map telling us how the sewage and water connections were laid,” Muthubabu added.
The sewer lines were installed in the 1960s and were made of stoneware. Shockingly, the pipeline was laid in the middle of the road and sewer connections from establishments on both sides of the roads were connected to one old pipeline, leading to severe clogging.
Laying new pipelines
“The sewage line was not maintained properly. The pipeline was outdated, the grease from the restaurants had clogged it heavily. We had to lay two new pipelines on both the sides of the road now,” Naresh Narasimhan added.
Currently, two 300 mm pipelines have been laid on both sides of the road. These are connected to the sewer lines coming in from the homes and commercial establishments. Two storm water drains have been built on either side of the road and the earlier sewage pipe outlets to the SWDs have been removed.
The contractor says that the Cauvery water pipeline was broken at every joint and the re-construction work included laying a new pipeline.
“These are not the only problems. There are numerous electric cables laid and we had to carry out the work without disrupting the day-to-day life of people who live here. Besides, construction work cannot be carried out on Friday and Saturday nights because on these days, there is a lot of pedestrian traffic at night. All this work we had to do without closing the road for pedestrians,” Muthubabu says.
The contractor on site maintains that the properties on the road had been letting sewage into the old storm water drain, which made it initially difficult for them to understand what was going on.
“Also, the sewage water, Cauvery water and rainwater were mixed. It was one big mess. Besides, the heavy rain for almost two months had slowed down the work. Of course, it will take time to fix it,” Naresh Narasimhan added.
Half the road to be completed by New Year?
A BBMP official said that the stretch from Brigade Road to Vasudev Adigas will be completed by the end of the month.
Meanwhile, the Church Street Shop Owners’ Association has requested BBMP to hold a carnival on December 31, as a part of the New Year celebration.
The association’s President Deepak Batavia had hoped that the work would be completed by then. “We had only suggested to the BBMP that a carnival could be conducted. But it’s okay if the work is not completed by then. What matters to us is that the road quality is good. If the road is not completed by December 31, then we will have to reconsider holding the carnival. There is no pressure from our end,” Batavia added.