Underground drainage project in Coimbatore- a work in progress with little progress in work

Stocked pipelines along Tiruchi Road in the city waiting to be used for laying the main underground sewer line to convey sewage to the Ondipudur sewage treatment plant.

Stocked pipelines along Tiruchi Road in the city waiting to be used for laying the main underground sewer line to convey sewage to the Ondipudur sewage treatment plant.   | Photo Credit: S. SIVA SARAVANAN


Civic body divided the project into six packages of which it had completed only one; even that is not operated to its installed capacity

Nearly 10 years after it started work, sometime in 2010, the Coimbatore Corporation is yet to complete the underground drainage (UGD) scheme in 60 wards.

When it started the work to lay 650 km of sewer lines at ₹ 373 crore, the civic body had hoped to complete it within three to five years. But as of January 2020, the Corporation is still working at three places and waiting to begin work at others.

The Corporation started the UGD work with the Central Government’s funds under the then Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission to provide service to the then city of 72 wards – now the core city area of 60 wards.

It had divided the project into six packages. The first three were laying sewer lines and providing house service connections and the last three were the construction of sewage treatment plants in Ukkadam, Nanjundapuram and Ondipudur.

Of the six, the Corporation had completed only one package, the construction of the sewage treatment plant in Ukkadam, which it commissioned in 2011. It had built the plant at ₹ 55 crore to treat 70 million litres sewage a day.

But the Corporation has not had an opportunity to operate the Ukkadam plant to its installed capacity.

Officials in the know of the issue said the plant treated only less than half its installed capacity as the Corporation was to yet to provide house service connections to the residents of those areas from where it had planned to convey the sewage.

In 2017, the Corporation asked people in Selvapuram, Telugupalayam and Saibaba Colony among other areas to pay deposit and service charges to get UGD house service connection. But as the residents were reluctant to avail of the connection citing the deposit to be exorbitant, the Corporation decided to divert a portion of the money meant for Smart Cities project to fund the connection work.

The officials said the Corporation had earmarked ₹ 31 crore to provide 42,000 house service connections. And, as on date, the Corporation had given connections to 10,000 houses and hoped to complete the work by June 2020.

The Corporation said it would bear the deposit and sewer line laying charges and the beneficiary residents could pay it in instalments.

Legal challenges

In constructing the Nanjundapuram sewage treatment plant, the Corporation had to suspend work following objections from residents in the neighbourhood.

After surmounting the legal challenges, the Corporation resumed work, but not before cancelling the agreement signed with the contractor and floating a new tender to fix a new contractor by revising the project cost.

At the time of preparing the estimates, the first time the Corporation had pegged the plant cost at ₹ 33.79 crore. But due to the legal challenges and the time lost to fight those, the Corporation is now executing the work at ₹ 43.60 crore.

The officials said the Corporation was confident of completing the work by December this year.

Only after the Corporation completed the Nanjundapuram plant work, it would be able to take up the work to provide house service connections, the work of which would take a year after December 2020, the officials said.

The story about the Ondipudur treatment plant is more or less similar. The Corporation had completed the construction, but is unable to operate the 70-million-litre-a-day plant because it is struggling to lay the main sewer line to convey the sewage.

The officials said delay in obtaining the National Highways permission to cut across the Tiruchi Road to lay the line for 10 km was the reason.

After it had obtained, the contractor faced financial issues and that delayed the work further.

As per the latest report, the Corporation was yet to complete work on a four-km stretch between Alvernia School and the plant and the work was progressing, though at snail’s pace.

In laying sewer lines for 650 km across the city, the Corporation had excluded a few areas, though they fell well within in the old city area.

Areas excluded

At the time the Corporation was laying the pipelines, the then councillors had complained that the civic body had excluded areas in Wards 39, 40, 46, 37, 59 and 60.

Admitting that the civic body had not covered all the areas in the 60 wards, the Corporation officials said the civic body had prepared a new project to provide UGD coverage to the excluded areas.

The Corporation had estimated the project to cost ₹ 175 crore and was at present working on the financial model.

Even as it is struggling to bring a closure to the project, the Corporation sometime ago had begun UGD in two added areas – Kurichi and Kuniamuthur – at ₹ 442 crore.

The Tamil Nadu Water Supply and Drainage Board that is executing the work on the Corporation’s behalf had completed around 40% of the work, said the Board sources.

The Corporation plans to provide UGD service to around 70,000 residents in the two areas covering 14 wards.

As part of the work, the Board is constructing a sewage treatment plant in Vellalore to treat around 30 million litres a day.

To provide UGD service to the nine other added areas, the sources said the Board had planned the work in three packages. It had prepared estimates for two and was working on the funding pattern and preparing the estimate for the third package.

The Corporation officials said as the UGD work it had undertaken with the JNNURM funds continued to linger on and as it would be taking up more projects, the Corporation should pay attention to completing the pending projects before taking up new ones.

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Printable version | Jan 21, 2020 12:33:50 AM |

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