Panaji: Facing a backlash over the chaos inflicted on the capital city due to the simultaneous execution of three smart city projects - underground sewerage system, water pipeline and smart roads - Sanjit Rodrigues, IAS, who heads the 'smart city' special purpose vehicle (SPV) as managing director and CEO on Thursday attributed the hardship to engineering challenges and the fact that it is an 'urban renewal' and not a greenfield project.
"There are engineering challenges like high water table, sandy soil which collapses as you dig and the need to be mindful of the existing sewerage lines which are currently working," Rodrigues who took charge of the Imagine Panaji Smart City Development Limited (IPSCDL), in May-June last year said.
Smart city project triggers row
He was addressing a press conference in a bid to clear the air over the ongoing smart city projects, which have attracted widespread bad press due to the traffic chaos and dust pollution witnessed in the capital city for the last couple of months.
Making a detailed power-point presentation covering the whole gamut of projects under the 'Smart City Mission' since 2016, Rodrigues said, 20 projects collectively worth ₹404.2 crore have been executed and completed. The balance 15 projects, including the 3 core projects of sewerage, water supply and smart roads, which are worth ₹531.70 crore and add up to over 50 per cent of the entire smart city mission, are currently ongoing, he added.
"The government has set a May 31 deadline to complete all smart city mission projects. This deadline is sacrosanct," Rodgrigues said, even as he claimed that the contractors involved have been given area and project specific shorter deadlines.
Deadline for the completion of roadwork
"The sewerage work along the Atmaram Borkar Road and the Dada Vaidya Road will be completed entirely by January 31," he said. In another corner of the city, the stretch of road from Madhuban complex up to the T-junction at the western edge of the St Inez cemetery will also be completed and commissioned by January 31, he added. He also claimed that over 90% of laying of the entire 7,982 meters of sewerage lines underground has been completed but only about 60 per-cent of the manholes have been completed.
"Currently 14 teams are working simultaneously across the city on erecting the manhole structures. Due to certain challenges like high water table and collapsing soil, the manhole work has to be carried out manually at several places," Rodrigues said.
Over the last several weeks, the ongoing works and the chaos it has caused has often hit the news leading to an intense slugfest on the political stage with Revenue Minister and Panaji MLA, Atanasio (Babush) Monserrate blaming the contractors and consultants for the chaos.
May 31 deadline
Monserrate who then got Chief Minister Pramod Sawant and the government to intervene after his rival and former chief minister late Manohar Parrikar's son Utpal accused him of incompetency and corruption, announced the May 31 deadline for the work but was apprehensive of its quality.
Rodrigues, however, said that the Bal Bhavan road connecting the DB Marg to the Caculo Mall junction which was commissioned over a year ago has had no complaints vis-a-vis quality.
"That (Bal Bhavan to Fire Services HQ junction) has weathered a monsoon and over a year has passed with no complaints. The same level of quality standards will be maintained all over," Rodrigues said.