For the past few weeks, a flyover in Kochi has been in the news after it was closed citing safety concerns for the public. The controversial flyover at Palarivattom which was shut down on May 1, has opened a can of worms as inquiry reports have even included names of top officials in government-owned corporations as being responsible for the cracks in the flyover’s structure.
When Oommen Chandy-led government began the construction of the flyover in 2014 and later when it was thrown open for the public by the LDF government in 2016, the residents of Kochi heaved a sigh of relief as it would end the clogged traffic at one of the busiest junctions in the city. But within months, the multi-crore flyover started showing wear and tear in the structure. And two years later, the authorities have been forced to shut it down after experts stated that it had structural damages.
At present, the government has only one doubt. Should the flyover – built at a cost of Rs 47.7 crore – be reconstructed anew or could it be rectified by repairs? For that, the government has roped in Metro man E Sreedharan to give an expert opinion in the matter. Sreedharan, who is the principal advisor of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC), inspected the structure on Monday.
Engineering experts opine that serious faults in execution of the project can be the only plausible explanation for a multi-crore project to turn faulty. “A structure like this turning problematic in just two years means that the fault lies in the execution of the work,” an engineering expert who was part of many government projects within Kerala and outside, told TNM.
He also explained about some general notions of implementation agencies, which often lead to damages to the structure.
“Usually, structures are designed in a way that 30% extra features are incorporated than what is necessary to withstand natural calamities or to avert other tragedies. This is the standard industry practice. Even engineering students are taught in this manner. The contractors usually play around this area, by reducing the 5-10% of the extra design features. But this percentage is escalated by some which leads to these kind of issues,” he said.
Another expert in the field told TNM that some issues could be seen in the flyover soon after it was inaugurated. “The drive through it was not smooth even then. It was as if we were going from one depression to the next as we cross sections of the flyover. We cannot say for sure whether it was a construction fault. Only scientific examination can answer that,” said Abilash Joy, a structural engineer in Kochi.
According to the initial estimate of the project, the flyover was to be constructed at Rs 72 crore. Earlier media reports, during the time the flyover was thrown open for public, had said that a new design was made later which led to a decrease of about Rs 10 crore from the initial estimate. But the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) officials confirmed to TNM that the present flyover only cost about Rs 47.7 crore for construction.
VACB is probing the involvement of Roads and Bridges Development Corporation of Kerala Limited (RBDCK) that constructed the project, consultancy agency KITCO Limited and RDS Projects that took the contract for the project. Top officials of all these organisations have been listed as accused in the case.
The probe by VACB was started after a report on the flyover was submitted to the government following a study by engineering experts from IIT Madras. As per Kerala PWD Minister G Sudhakaran, the 1,000 page report of IIT Madras has said that parts of the flyover were constructed using low quality concrete. It was also reported that there were damages in the girders and piers of the flyover.