G. Mahadevan

‘Consultants were warned that the site is unsuitable for reservoir’

THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Workers of the Japan Bank for International Corporation (JBIC) programme on Monday initiated protective measures along the boundaries of the site dug up for the construction of a large reservoir next to the Kerala Water Authority’s 72 mld treatment plant at Aruvikkara where there was an earth cave-in on Saturday morning.

The protective measures were decided upon after senior KWA engineers, including the Chief Engineer (South) Sukumaran Nair and the KWA Superintending Engineer overseeing JBIC operations Sathyadevan, inspected the site on Monday. Strong showers on Saturday had caused earth to cave in along two sides of the site exposing a portion of the 1200 mm cast iron ‘pumping main’ pipeline bringing water to the city. KWA engineers at Aruvikkara and at the PH division, Thiruvananthapuram, told The Hindu that they had repeatedly pointed out, in writing, to the Tokyo Engineering Consultants (TEC), the consultants for this scheme, that this site was unsuitable for the construction of a reservoir.

“We wrote to them as early as August 2007. There was no reply. We had asked for proper scaffolding on the sides of this site to prevent such incidents. They just did not listen to us,” a senior KWA engineer said here. Authority engineers agree, though, that the unexpected rain might have caught TEC workers off guard.

Theerapatham troubles

Similar complaints were voiced by KWA engineers about the ‘Theerapatham’ scheme which was also executed by a private consultant. Whenever pipelines laid as part of the scheme malfunctioned or burst, KWA engineers blamed it on shoddy workmanship of the workers of the consultant and the contractors.

Sources among KWA engineers and in the Department of Water Resources argue that there may be some justification for such complaints. At the same time such incidents have also raised questions about the efficacy with which the KWA’s JBIC team goes about its job of supervising the scheme’s projects.

Recently when a pipeline at Vayalikkada—laid as part of the Theerapatham scheme—burst it was found that the line had been laid less than a foot deep.

Though this was identified as the prime reason for the burst the KWA also thought it fit to order an internal vigilance inquiry into possible supervisory lapses of its own engineers. In the case of the JBIC scheme too the lapses, if any, on the part of the consultant appear to be compounded by supervisory lapses of the KWA’s JBIC team.