Says frequent bursts at Vyalikkada due to insufficient depth of trench

Panel plans to carry out pressure tests on pipelines

Interim report was submitted to KWA on Monday

Thiruvananthapuram: An expert committee constituted by the government to study the problems relating to the water pipelines laid in the city as part of the Theerapathom scheme has, in its interim report, said there is no necessity to modify the existing lines by fixing air valves and surge tanks.

The main reason for the frequent bursts in the Theerapathom line that originates at Vyalikkada has more to do with the insufficient depth of the trench dug for laying the line, poor workmanship and handling of the pipes on site and less to do with the quality of the pipes, the interim report reads.

“The committee wishes to carry out pressure tests on the laid pipelines before arriving at a final conclusion,” the report notes.

The report was submitted by committee chairman and Chief Engineer (South) of the Kerala Water Authority Sukumaran Nair to the government on Monday.

A blow to officials

The interim report has come as a blow to officials in the KWA and those in the government who have been pressing for a total replacement of the Theerapathom line from Vayalikkada to the Medical College Hospital premises. These officials had argued for replacing this line with a ductile iron pipe.

The current HDPE line there has burst repeatedly - particularly in March and April this year - causing disruptions in the supply of water to the MCH.

A standoff

There is an ongoing standoff between Hydro-Tech Engineers and Contractors, the company that laid the drinking water pipelines, and the KWA over who should shoulder the blame for these bursts.

The 400 mm pipeline supplying water to the MCH had burst on March 18, March 25 and on March 30.

The fact that the line was laid less than a foot deep from the road surface was identified by the Kerala Water Authority as the prime reason for the bursts.

Varying claims

While the KWA maintains that the contractor is to blame for this, Hydro-Tech argues that it was the KWA’s own engineers who okayed the laying of this line at the current depth at Vayalikkada.

Though it was the KWA itself that finally re-laid a portion of the line at an enhanced depth, the top brass in the authority wanted to “fix culpability” for the bursts before going in for a total replacement of the line.

Letter to firm

As part of this, the project director of the KSUDP Anand Singh wrote a letter to Hydro-Tech in March pointing out that the KWA had, as far back as 2006, asked Hyrdo-Tech to re-lay a 100-metre stretch of this line.

Hydro-Tech’s refusal to re-lay the pipeline was conveyed in a letter written by the company’s managing partner Biju Jacob on March 31 to the project director of the KSUDP.

“Whenever there is a snag it is always a general practise to blame the contractor…the KWA’s stand that M/S HTEC is responsible for it (the bursts) is illegal and breach and shirking of responsibility…,” the letter reads.

The letter noted that during the laying of the 400 mm line, there were protests from the local people who did not want the new line to originate from an existing 400 mm line. This, the people felt, would lead to shortage of water for existing consumers.

“Considering the people’s demand after various levels of discussions we were directed by the KWA to make alterations and deviations such that the new line to be laid can be charged by connecting the 700 / 900 mm PSC pipe passing through Vayalikkada road itself on the other side.”

Hydro-Tech’s reply also noted that its bill claimed on March 9, 2007, has not yet been paid.

“An amount of Rs.3 to 3.5 crore is yet to be received from the KSUDP,” the letter noted.

“The internal vigilance inquiry we conducted has also pointed out that this work cannot be accepted in its present condition. Now the interim report says there is no need for any modifications in the line,” pointed out a top KWA official, “so how can the KWA now replace that line?”