When Minister for Water Resources P.J. Joseph told a television channel here on Monday that an alternative pipeline being laid from Aruvikkara to Peroorkada would be completed in June 2013, was he setting an unrealistic deadline for the Kerala Water Authority (KWA)?

Field engineers of the KWA who spoke to The Hindu on this issue were categorical in stating that the new pipeline could be completed only by August or September this year. A June deadline is at best wishful thinking, they said.

“The new pipeline would be 9,600 metres when completed. So far, we have laid about 1,000 metres on the Aruvikkara-Irumba leg. On this leg itself, the total length to be laid is 2,400 metres,” a senior engineer associated with the pipe-laying project said.

Each section of the mild steel pipeline weighs five or six tonnes. Hoisting this into place and laying it properly is a time-consuming affair. Moreover, on some stretches of the new pipeline’s route, the ground has to be prepared so that the line can be laid. “All this cannot be done by June. Else, a massive redeployment of personnel has to be done and multiple teams should start working on different reaches all at once. This would also mean that a 10-km-long reach of road would be dug up simultaneously at many locations,” he pointed out.

‘Mild steel’ policy

The KWA also appears to have taken a policy call to use only mild steel pipes for all future projects. Mr. Joseph has declared this in public. However, when the ongoing alternative pipeline project was being finalised in 2012, there was a move in the KWA to get approval for laying a different kind of concrete line. Sources in the KWA said here that the initial decision was to use Ductile Iron (DI) pipes for the new pipeline from Aruvikkara to Peroorkada. However, when the KWA realised that these pipes may be prohibitively expensive and that they may even have to be imported, it was decided to use mild steel pipes instead.

“The minutes of that meeting were, however, written in such a manner that it appeared that the KWA also decided to consider a different kind of concrete pipe than the one that bursts every now and then. Field engineers were even asked to prepare an estimate for these concrete pipes and this was also sent to the top levels of the Authority,” an engineer who was present at KWA meetings on this scheme said.