For the past few days, yet another flyover in Kochi, this time one still under construction, has been all over the news as reports came out raising concerns about the quality of the structure. The issue became controversial after an official of the Public Works Department (PWD) was suspended following media reports stating that quality tests revealed there were irregularities in the construction.
The construction of the flyover in Vyttila, one of the traffic-congested spots in the city, commenced in December 2017. According to reports, the controversy started brewing when about 70% of the flyover construction had been completed. According to the initial plan, the construction of the flyover was to be completed within 18 months, that is May 2019, but it hasn‚Äôt been.
(Photo credits: Midhun J)
The issue is being looked at closely by the public as another flyover in Kochi has been shut down just two years after being opened, because of severe lapses in construction.
Amidst this, reports emerged last week stating that a quality test conducted on the flyover by quality control wing of PWD revealed that the structure was not built conforming to standards. Following this, an assistant executive engineer in-charge of quality control wing of PWD was suspended by the government.
However, the government is standing firm that there have been no irregularities in the flyover construction and has denied that tests have revealed the flyover to be built under substandard conditions.
Talking to TNM on the issue, PWD Minister G Sudharakan said that the Vyttila flyover was pulled into a controversy unnecessarily for political gains. ‚ÄúWe strongly believe that the officer who gave this report out even before submitting it to the government or higher officials concerned, was used politically by some to cover up the issue of Palarivattom flyover,‚ÄĚ the minister said.
Palarivattom flyover, another flyover located in another busy junction in the city, was closed on May 1 just two years after it was built as an expert study revealed severe lapses in the construction. The flyover was constructed when the Oommen Chandy-led UDF government was in power. The ongoing vigilance probe started on the directive of the government, has even named the then top officials of Road and Bridges Development Corporation of Kerala Limited (RBDCK), a government-run company.
‚ÄúMany reports compare Vyttila flyover to Palarivattom flyover issue, but that is absolutely wrong. Three tests have so far been conducted on Vyttila flyover as per the quality control manual and none of them have stated such a finding,‚ÄĚ said Sudhakaran.
According to the quality control manual, two tests were conducted, one by officials of the PWD and the other by the quality control wing of the same department.
‚ÄúThe first report stated that the quality of all pier, pier caps and girders of the structure is above the required standard value as per the manual. A second test was conducted by quality control wing of PWD. The official who conducted this test, did not submit the report to the officials concerned, but rather leaked the reports out. From what we understand, this official sent a mail to people outside the official circle complaining about her superiors in the department and also things relating to the report. That was the start of this controversy,‚ÄĚ said the minister.
‚ÄúBut actually, even the second report has not said that construction was substandard. But it had varying result values from the first test report. That is why we went along with the protocol of the quality control manual for a third test,‚ÄĚ he said.
As per the protocol, the third round of tests should be done by an independent body. An expert team from Mar Athanasius College of Kothamangalam in Ernakulam district conducted an independent test. According to the minister, the test report they submitted on Monday revealed that all the three main structures of the flyover ‚Äď pier, pier cap and girder ‚Äď meet the quality standards.
Govt orders for more detailed tests
Though the government has stated that three tests conducted as per the quality control manual of PWD show that the structure meets the required standards, it has decided to conduct more detailed tests on the flyover.
‚ÄúThe expert team from Mar Athanasius College had recommended the government to conduct a more detailed test. As per that, we have decided to conduct ‚Äėcore test‚Äô of the flyover also. An expert team from Cochin University of Science and Technology (CUSAT) will conduct this,‚ÄĚ said the minister.
The core test is one of the non-destructive tests that gives a more detailed analysis of the standard of work done.
The minister added that as part of being more cautious, the government has also asked an IIT Madras team of experts to submit a report on the flyover.
Incidentally, it was an IIT Madras expert team that pointed out the faulty construction of Palarivattom flyover.
Meanwhile, the minister said that the work of Vyttila flyover construction will continue without pause.