Facility at Maattu Mandhai pending for two years; theft at sites, rising prices cited

The rising cost of construction material has been giving sleepless nights to not only prospective house owners but contractors too. Add to this the problem of thieving from construction sites and it is enough to deter many from taking up vital infrastructure projects.

Recently, the sixth tender call for the project to build a road overbridge at Maattu Mandhai in Tiruvottiyur went unanswered. Sources in the highways department say contractors were reluctant due to theft of material from the construction site in north Chennai and the huge difference between market rates and the schedule of rates. The construction of the Rs. 47-crore road overbridge, spanning 550 metres, with a median, crash barrier and footpaths has been pending for over two years.

According to a contractor, who is presently involved in a few projects in the city, the northern part of the city is not at all conducive for carrying out work. He said that he had once been asked to part with money at knife-point. “Thieves take iron rods, cutting tools, grouting machines, steel shutter sheets that hold the cement concrete while it sets and every piece of scrap they can lay their hands on. The watchman cannot do anything as the construction site is an open area,” he said. In some sites in north Chennai where work is on, contractors said that residents of the locality, who had been provided jobs at the site, also took away various construction items by boat.

In this particular project at Maattu Mandhai, the tender had been settled in October – November but the contractor did not sign the agreement owing to a problem in his company. The work order had to be cancelled.

The Administrative Sanction for the project, which will be a joint venture with Southern Railway, was issued sometime in 2011.

The contractors also say that there is a 20 per cent difference between the market rate and the schedule of rates. “In road construction, only machinery is required. But bridge construction is very labour-intensive and the rate prescribed by the government is inadequate. Similarly, the rate for sand that is being provided by the government is Rs. 15 per cubic feet but sand is sold between Rs. 36 – Rs. 40 per cu.ft. We cannot afford to work with such rates,” said a contractor.

Sources in the Highways Department said that another tender would soon be called. The process of land acquisition is yet to be completed. “Though Rs. 4.83 crore has been deposited with the revenue department, we have not yet taken possession of 2070 sq. mt of land. It will take another 6 months for the procedure to be completed. By that time, we hope that some contractor will come forward to take up the work,” said a source.

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