The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is planning to scrap its idea of constructing a marine aquarium. The move comes in view of severe criticism the civic body has been receiving from politicians and animal activists after the death of a Humboldt penguin. BMC officials had earlier stated that construction of the marine aquarium will be delayed and it will be opened for the public only after May. However, after one of the eight Humboldt penguins at Byculla zoo died on October 23, the BMC was blamed for negligence and the contractor for shoddy work. The civic body has been facing flak for the last two weeks and is now planning to drop the idea.
“The marine aquarium will have fish that will be imported from other countries. In case they are not able to adjust to water from local sources, they will die and we will be blamed for that as well. We would like to avoid unnecessary hassle and are planning to scrap the plan of the marine aquarium,” the official said.
As per plan, the aquarium was to be constructed in an auditorium spread over more than 3000 sq feet and was supposed to feature around 60 species of marine life.
Apart from construction of an enclosure to house the penguins, the contractor, Highway Construction Company (HCC) was also appointed for construction of a tunnel aquarium. However, owing to delay and poor quality of work, the BMC truncated HCC’s contract and it is now only allowed to complete the construction of the penguin enclosure.
BMC officials have also raised questions over advance payment of Rs 1.25 crores made to the contractor Goatrade two years before the eight Humboldt penguins were actually brought to the city and have termed the transaction as ‘questionable’.
The official added that the civic authorities had made an advance payment of Rs 1.25 crore, which is 50 per cent of the total cost of Rs 2.5 crores for the purchase of the Humboldt penguins in 2014.
Terming the payment ‘objectionable’, the official said, “What is the logic behind giving half the cost as advance payment two years before the product is delivered? What if the contractor did not keep its word and left with the money? It was a ‘gamble’ to pay such a large amount of money.”
Another senior civic official stated that the marine aquarium, like the 5D theatre, the cafeteria and the robotic zoo, was an ambitious plan mooted by the ruling party in the BMC, the Shiv Sena.
In March, civic chief Ajoy Mehta had downsized the original budget for 113 crores down to around Rs 50 crores. Officials also stated that the second parallel contract floated for maintenance of the penguin enclosure does not include the marine aquarium.