The Democratic Front (DF) government’s ambitious mid-Arabian Sea Shivaji statue project at Marine Drive is now estimated to cost the state exchequer a staggering Rs 1,900 crore. As per the latest tender documents for appointing a project management consultant (PMC) for the memorial, the cost has shot up by almost 30 per cent in a period of just two months.
When tenders were first issued in May this year, the estimated project cost was Rs 1,500 crore. Bids will be opened in mid-August to make it on time for the Maharashtra Assembly polls and the work on ground is slated to be completed over a five-year period.
On the eve of the last Assembly elections in 2009, when the Ashok Chavan government approved a concept plan for the equestrian statue, the estimated project cost of Rs 500 crore was less than a third of the amount arrived at now.
The memorial has recently been redesigned so that at a proposed 190 feet height, it will be the tallest statue in the world, even higher than the under-construction Sardar Vallabhbhai Patel statue in Gujarat.
After the tender notice issued in May this year drew a blank, the Maharashtra Public Works Department (PWD) re-issued tender documents in July with hiked cost estimates and less stringent conditions.
The earlier condition requiring the interested PMCs to have prior experience in constructing a marine memorial or coastal infrastructure of above Rs 700 crore over an area of at least 10 hectares has been diluted slightly so that more PMCs can qualify for the project.
Explaining the increase in project cost, a PWD official who did not wish to be named said, “Two months ago, when we first prepared the documents for the project, we estimated the electrical costs as only 11 per cent of the total project cost. However, the electrical department has now sent revised estimates. The electrical expenditure for everything starting with installing a sub-station will be higher than usual as this is a deep-sea project,” said the official.
P K Das, an activist and architect involved in waterfront projects and urban planning, pointed out that the money could have been better utilized in a host of other priorities. “Is this really the investment that a city with a collapsing infrastructure needs to survive? The government is trying to score brownie points on the eve of elections by bluffing citizens. A simple survey in the slums or among the working classes will show that a majority do not want the state to focus on constructing a statue when the state of human development and quality of life is so miserable in the city.”
The statue will be built on a 16-hectare egg-shaped rocky outcrop in the Arabian Sea at a distance of 1.2 km from Raj Bhavan, 3.6 km from H2O Jetty and 2.6 km from Nariman Point.
It will also have an amphitheatre, art museum, exhibition gallery and sound & light shows, all showcasing the life of the 17th century warrior king along with the recent addition of an underwater aquarium.