‘Lack of civil engg expertise in BWSSB led to collapse’

Officials refute charge, say STP project awarded to pvt firm on turnkey basis

Published: 19th June 2019 06:29 AM  |   Last Updated: 19th June 2019 06:29 AM   |  A+A-

Express News Service

BENGALURU:  That the top brass of the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) lacks civil engineering expertise could be one of the reasons for the collapse of the roof of a biodigester of an STP on Monday. The collapse killed three and injured six workers. A highly placed source said that instead of experienced civil engineers, those with a background in electrical or mechanical engineering are occupying the top posts of BWSSB. “Though the STP work is being carried out by a contractor, BWSSB has to supervise the overall work. However, the present crop of engineers is not technically qualified to perform the role,” the source said. 

Top officials, however, deny the charge and claim that they have the requisite skill. 
Engineer-in-chief Kemparamaiah, who has four chief engineers reporting to him, has an electrical engineering background, while Waste Water Management chief engineer Nithyananda, too, is from a similar background. Chairman Tushar Girinath holds a B.Tech degree in mechanical engineering.

“There are many civil engineers in the department. However, factors other than qualification and accomplishments play a role in reaching the top in the Water Supply Board,” the source alleged. “This is just the tip of the iceberg. Many such ongoing projects are going to be impacted,” he added. 

Constructing the digester of an STP is a complex, skilled job. “How can someone without experience in building such structures, improve upon the designs presented or detect flaws in it?” the source questioned.
TNIE had, in a report on May 30, 2018, written about the huge vacuum that was likely to set in at the BWSSB, following the retirement of three experienced and highly qualified chief engineers who were instrumental in the success of various stages of the Cauvery water supply projects for the city.  

Asked for its response, the BWSSB top brass ruled it out. Kemparamaiah told TNIE, “The execution by Enviro Control Associates of Surat was supervised by NJS Engineers India Pvt Ltd, an internationally reputed concern. The contract was awarded on a turnkey basis, which means the contractor completes the project and also takes care of operation and maintenance for a period of 10 years. The contractor, consultant and BWSSB are together responsible for its overall safety. It is foolish to blame the lack of expertise in BWSSB.”

Nithyananda pointed out that the executive engineer and a few engineers overseeing work at the field level had civil engineering expertise. “Those at the helm of BWSSB have 30-32 years experience in the water department,” he pointed out. 

Tushar Girinath, who was reinstated full-time chairman from May 31 this year, claimed the top officers were technically sound. “An internal inquiry is being carried out by a committee comprising the engineer-in-chief and two superintending engineers to look into procedural and safety lapses that led to the incident. Let us wait for its report as well as third party inquiry that will be carried out.”

Third party for inquiry not finalised
BWSSB Chairman Tushar Girinath ruled out that an external agency had been finalised to carry out an inquiry into the STP mishap. “We want a third party inquiry. We have approached IISc Bangalore, and SERC, Chennai. If they don’t want to conduct it, then we will approach IIT Madras. Any talk that we have finalised an agency is not true,” he said. Work was stopped at the Hebbal STP and will resume after the technical inquiry report is given by the third party, and a procedural and safety report is given by our internal team, Girinath added. It may take at least a month, he said. 

New design for digester  
A senior BWSSB official said an alternative design will now be used to build the digester for the STP at Hebbal, whose roof collapsed on Monday. Work was completely stopped and is likely to resume only after a month. “The same design was used by the group at many places in the country to build STPs. However, since it has resulted in the mishap, we want to use a different design.”

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