Sorry we are behind schedule: Funds, pandemic delay development projects in Delhi

Due to reasons like Covid-19 lockdown, labourers going home and shortage of funds, several marquee civic development projects in Delhi have got delayed.

Published: 02nd August 2021 06:07 AM  |   Last Updated: 02nd August 2021 12:52 PM   |  A+A-

Construction work for the Ashram underpass got stalled due to the Covid-19 lockdown and subsequent shortage of labourers, throwing traffic out of gear at the busy intersection.

Construction work for the Ashram Construction work for the Ashram underpass got stalled due to the Covid-19 lockdown and subsequent shortage of labourers, throwing traffic out of gear at the busy inte

Express News Service

Two air pollution bans, Assembly polls, lockdowns, labour and financial crunch...The Public Works Department (PWD) and other construction agencies have just about started recovering from setbacks and aiming at delivering projects at least before revised deadlines. Work deferred already due to the pandemic last year, plans were hit again by the second wave.

Some of the marquee projects the 1.3 km Pragati Maidan tunnel road, Ashram Underpass, extension of Ashram flyover to DND flyover, Benito-Juarez under pass and beautification of seven busy and congested roads of Delhi which were expected to be completed by December 2020 and January 2021, got stalled.

Construction activities did not stop during the second wave, but the lockdown slowed down the process due to closure of markets, lack of supply of materials and industrial oxygen and most importantly, lack of labourers. “Big projects were affected last year during the nationwide lockdown. This year, the situation was different and it continues to be challenging. The major problem is absence of labourers. Some went home during Holi and many left to vote in state and panchayat polls. Those who stayed back on site had to be looked after as far as following protocols like distancing and wearing masks are concerned. Things are getting back to normal, but absence of labourers has slowed down the process of the work. Most of them are scared of a third wave,” a PWD official said.

The second lockdown was implemented on April 19 and continued till May 30. “We are moving at a snail’s pace. For example, if an agency requires 100 labourers for a project, they are managing with 40. This will eventually delay the project and deadlines will again be missed,” said the official.

PWD is also facing a financial crisis. Many contractors and agencies, who were awarded tenders, left due to non-payment. Because of frequent delays, some of the projects have also seen cost escalation. “It started in November 2019, when constructions were stopped due to air pollution and it continued till February. News projects could not start also because of polls. Then came the Covid-19 pandemic and exodus of labourers. Now, as the labour problems eases a bit, fund issues have popped up. In June, 2020, funds were freezed, which means you cannot pay,” said the PWD official.

There was another construction ban by National Green Tribunal in November and payments to labour contractors were not made. In February this year, the government released funds to pay the contractors, but for the period up to September, 2020.

Work in progress at the Integrated Exhibition-cum-Convention Center construction site at Pragati Maidan. (Photo | Shekhar Yadav, EPS)

Key projects like Pragati Maidan tunnel road, which was expected to be completed by May-end, has got delayed. Ashram Underpass, Benito- Juarez underpass and Barapullah extension to Mayur Vihar were scheduled to be completed by March. These have got delayed by almost a year.

“Streetscaping of Moolchand to Ashram Chowk was set to be completed by September 2020. After it got delayed, we were hoping to complete it by March this year. Then it got delayed again due to the second wave and shortage of labourers. The onset of monsoon has also hampered activities. Now, if everything goes to plan and there is no third wave and pollution ban, this stretch is expected to be completed by January 2022,” said the PWD official.

Steeetscaping and beautification of roads on the lines of European cities is one of the ambitious projects of the Delhi government. The government has identified about 10 stretches which will be decongested and redesigned. These projects were expected to be completed by January, 2020. However, only about 15 per cent of work has been done so far. The reason? Shortage of labourers. An official privy to developments said that an agency hired for the redevelopment of Narwana Road left the project midway due to non-payment. “Shortage of labours is a problem already. And the monsoon has hit the Barapullah elevated corridor project. The water level of Yamuna increases during the rain. This causes another problem,” said an official.

Metro Phase 4 back on track
Delhi Metro Rail Corporation (DMRC) spokesperson, Anuj Dayal said things are getting back to normal. “Currently, work has gathered pace after the second wave of the pandemic. More than 4,000 workers are working at the sites. This number had gone down to about 2,500 during the second wave. However, those who stayed back were taken care of. Adequate arrangements were made as far as medical care is concerned. Accommodation was provided when required. Vaccination camps are also being organised for the workers across construction sites. A street play campaign to sensitise the workers about vaccination was organised,” he said.

DMRC is currently engaged in construction of 65 kilometres of new lines across three corridors as part of its fourth phase of expansion. Work on this phase started in December, 2019. It is expected to be completed in 2025. However, the pandemic is not over yet and deadlines may be reviewed accordingly. It is too early to comment on cost escalations yet, informed Dayal.

Rapid Rail project on course
The National Capital Regional Tr ansport Corporation (NCRTC) is working on the implementation of India’s first Rapid Rail Transit System (RRTS) project across Delhi- NCR. There is no delay in project timelines, but the second wave has impacted the project badly. There has been disruptions in the supply of industrial oxygen and also, a shortage of labourers. Besides, labour mobilisation was a big challenge during the pandemic. However, Team NCRTC has kept the ball rolling by judiciously deploying the available labour, with due concerns for a safe working environment.

“At present, more than 10,000 labours and 1,100 engineers are working on the 82 km Delhi- Ghaziabad-Meerut RRTS project. Further, construction sites have been equipped with basic medical facilities, including availability of ambulance, to help workers deal with any medical contingency. We have also formed an Emergency Response Team to provide 24x7 assistance in getting help for medical related issues including medicine and oxygen supplies, counselling facilities etc. A vaccination drive has also been organised for the workers,” said a senior official.

“More than one-third of the piers in the elevated stretch are on the priority section. Most of the viaduct has been constructed in the priority section of the corridor between Sahibabad to Duhai. Track laying has also started in this section. On this corridor, a 12 km stretch is to be constructed underground, of which about 4 km is in Delhi and 8 km in Uttar Pradesh. For the construction of the underground part of Delhi, activities have picked up pace at Anand Vihar,” assured the official.

Underpass behind schedule
Construction work on this stretch started in 2019 and was expected to be completed by June 2020. However, the project was severely hampered by the pandemic and shortage of labour. The actual civil construction started in May 2020 after the lockdown was lifted.

“The project is running behind schedule and execution of the work has been disrupted First, the process got delayed due to the Shaheen Bagh protest and then because of the lockdown. We tried to complete the work by March this year, but things got delayed due to the ban on construction following pollution. And then came the second wave of pandemic. Work was halted completely during that time due to shortage of labourers. But now they have come back to work and we are hoping to open the traffic on Ashram Chowk by August 31. Besides, 80 per cent work on the Ashram Underpass has been completed. We are waiting for the DTL to shift their line which crosses through the underpass. We have been requesting them since last November. Once they shift, the rest of the work will be completed soon,” said an official.

The underpass will cater to the people coming and going from Ashram, Kilokri and Kalindi Kunj. Currently, people coming from Kilokri have to travel long till Sarai Kale Khan to take a U turn and reach Ashram and Kalindi Kunj. Further, the four-lane underpass is expected to reduce traffic jam on that stretch by 41 per cent.

The official further said that work on road widening has started, but actual work on the centre to construct the six-lane Ashram flyover is yet to start. “Delhi Traffic Police has not issued an NOC to start the project. Without NOC certificate, this work cannot begin. They said they will issue it once the underpass is completed. Once construction begins, the flyover will take 9-10 months to complete.

” Construction of the muchawaited 410-metre underpass, proposed by the PWD, at Ashram Chowk along Mathura Road started in December last year. The Rs 128.98-crore project also includes expansion of the Ashram flyover to DND flyway to de-congest daily traffic snarls on roads. The stretch sees more than three lakh vehicles every day and commuters are often stuck for an hour.

Light at the end of tunnel
The 1.2-km tunnel is the most awaited project and was scheduled to be completed by January 2020. The PMO in June 2019 had asked PWD to finish construction by the deadline. However, the work got delayed due to lockdown.

According to officials, 90 per cent of work has been completed on this stretch. Things like connecting branches and small portions and other works like horticulture, sign boards and landscaping works are pending. “The work was expected to be completed by May end but lockdown and shortage of labour slowed down the work. The monsoon also affected plans. We expect it to complete by end of this year.”

Around 3.5 lakh vehicles use this stretch via ITO. The underground tunnel will go beneath Pragati Maidan and connect India Gate near Purana Quila Road and pass through the Pragati Maidan Thermal Power Station. The tunnel will provide signal-free travel to commuters travelling to and from Noida, Ghaziabad, Mathura Road, East Delhi, Jangpura via India Gate. Further, it aims to end traffic jams at the ITO signal and around Supreme Court and India Gate.


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