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Thursday, September 10, 2009

Another cave-in drains Pedder Rd patience

Mumbai: A part of the road opposite singer Lata Mangeshkar's building Prabhu Kunj on Pedder Road caved in late Wednesday evening creating a huge crater. Repairs continued late into Thursday night, one lane on Pedder Road remained open for north-bound traffic and cars were diverted from Gamadia Road to Bhulabhai Desai Road. But the pile up of vehicles was felt all the way up to Breach Candy, Babulnath, Kemps Corner and Hughes Road. 
    Civic officials said the portion sank because the over-century old 1-km long underground stormwater drain system, that stretches from Kemps Corner to Haji Ali, collapsed. Leaks in underground utilities possibly caused water to seep into layers and weaken the base on which the asphalt road had been laid. This in turn led the road to cave in and resulted in a 5 ft wide and 1.5 ft deep crater. 
    Residents feel they were fortunate there was no mishap, though the traffic scene was bad. Ram Ajoomal, president of the Peddar Road Residents' Association (PRRA), said, "Only a few months ago, the road was laid and now it has caved in again. The traffic diversions were not working.'' 
    Disha Shetty, an HR professional, took 45 minutes to travel from Breach Candy to CST on Thursday evening. "There was bumper-to-bumper traffic between Babulnath and Kemps Corner. Finally, near Cymroza Art Gallery we alighted from our cab and simply started walking. We took another cab when the road was clearer,'' she said. 
    "One lane near the cavedin portion of the road was open to motorists. But when that lane got choc-a-block with vehicles, we directed the remaining motorists to Gamadia road and further to Talyarkhan chowk,'' a senior traffic police official said. Most vehicles were directed through Wilson col
lege road. A team of 70 traffic police constables and 8 officers were on duty in the area throughout the day. 
    Officials from the BMC's storm water drains department said as soon as a call was recorded at the disaster management cell at 10:30 pm, "we barricaded the area immediately. We started digging the road to locate the fault and finally created a 10 ft by 10 ft 
trench. We decided to reinstate the entire patch of 9.5 m.'' "Earlier, gaps between the layers of bricks, stones and earth and the final asphalt were filled by lime. Now we will use sand metal casting and lay cement pipes. We hope to finish the work by Friday morning. The most important part is the curing process, where the cement settles down,'' they added. 
    Local corporator Arvind Bane said this is the fourth time a portion of the road on top of the drain, especially on the stretch between Cumballa Hill telephone exchange and Cadbury Junction,had caved in.The previous incidents were near Jindal house and Vasant building. 
    The old drainage system is a dhapa one, made of long blocks of stones. After years of erosion, the soil underneath weakened and caused the drain to collapse, said officials. The solution, they said, is to replace the entire system on the stretch between Jaslok Hospital and Cadbury Junction. 
    Incidentally, the BMC had carried out major repairs on the same stretch early this year in May and the road had remained shut for a little more than a week. "We couldn't get the storm water drain repaired the last time the road was dug because it is not possible to undertake work on two utilities simultaneously. Moreover, since the MMRDA flyover will be constructed and utilities would be shifted then, there was no point wasting so much money,'' said a civic official. 
    Last year, a road at Jacob 
Circle caved in, leaving three dead. A BMC probe then revealed the reason for the cave-in was a cavity in the main sewerage line. 
Additional municipal commissioner RA Rajeev said that strengthening and rehabilitation of storm water drains for the old city area will be taken up under the 
Brimstowad project. "The first tender has already been issued. The second one will be issued after the code of conduct ends,'' he said. 
The century-old dhapa drains underneath Pedder Road are not going to be replaced by conventional drains soon. The underground stormwater drain network, about 565 km in the island city, is a series of dhapas or twofeet wide masonry stones laid on top of open drains, to create outlets for rain water. Replacing them will mean dealing with over 20 utilities, most of them unmarked on maps not updated for ages.

BMC workers digging at the site on Pedder Rd

One of the stones in the drain caved in (left), leading the road above to collapse

Serpentine queues at Chowpatty


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