Mumbai: Pandemic threw big infra projects into disarray

The nationwide lockdown enforced due to the outbreak of novel Coronavirus resulted in the slowdown of big-budgeted infrastructure projects initiated across the state. The projects that have been affected include -- Samruddhi Mahamarg, the augmentation of Mumbai-Pune Expressway, the construction of the Metro network, Versova Bandra Sealink among a few. Shortage of manpower at all construction sites due to migration of workers had stimulated uncertainty over completion of the project timeline. In fact, all project deadlines have been extended for another period of six months to one year.

Not only insufficient strength of labourers on various ongoing project sites was a concerning factor but preparing employees for professional training by sending them in different cities/ getting well-trained experts was a task further affecting the works. One such instance was in the Coastal Road project undertaken by the BrihanMumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) wherein for months it was difficult for them to get Chinese Engineers to assemble the Tunnel Boring Machine (TBM), the longest and largest ever to be used in India. Similarly, the pandemic had thrown metro rail projects into disarray.

However, the Covid-19 situation indigenised the government agencies, undertaking public projects, therefore, reducing dependence on foreign manufacturers. Instead, their focus shifted on the Aatmanirbhar Bharat mission involving Indian partners. Resulting in the first made-in-India metro rake which was delivered and will be now used to run the new upcoming Mumbai Metro rail lines.

However, as the state faces a second wave of coronavirus, government agencies undertaking these big-budget infrastructure development work are fearing that the challenge of manpower shortage will once again arise. Last year in March and April, due to lockdown, the strength of labourers recorded a reduction by almost 30 per cent, said the official of Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation(MSRDC) undertaking Samruddhi Mahamarg project.

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