The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is planning to re-audit at least 24 skywalks, before taking a final call on demolishing or closing them.
The 24 skywalks, which were constructed over the last 10 years by the Mumbai Metropolitan Regional Development Authority (MMRDA) and handed over to the BMC for maintenance, are allegedly in “poor condition”.
An audit report submitted by three structural consultants to the civic body in August last year had suggested that at least 18 bridges in the city required to be demolished. It said that 61 bridges need major repair, while 107 others require minor repair.
According to an official in the BMC’s bridges department, service life of a bridge is normally 15 to 20 years. “…but it seems substandard materials were used in their construction, which is clear from the condition of the skywalks. How else can the condition of an eight- to 10-year-old bridge deteriorate so much?… We need to re-audit these 24 skywalks which will tell us how many of them require immediate demolition,” the official said.
A bridge’s service life represents its expected lifetime requiring only routine maintenance operations; no major repairs are necessary during a service life.
Three skywalks, located in Bandra (East), Dahisar (West) and Santacruz (East), which were suspected to be in extremely poor condition are already shut, officials said. The MMRDA had spent more than Rs 500 crore on the construction of these skywalks connected to railway stations to ease pedestrian movement in Mumbai and MMR region.
“When we inspected these skywalks, following complaints from citizens, we were shocked to see construction quality. People are blaming us for someone else’s work. We cannot say much since the MMRDA comes under the chief minister… Tomorrow, if there is any mishap, then our engineers will be arrested and booked,” the official said.
The MMRDA comprises 17 members and is chaired by the Urban Development Minister, which is held by Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis.
Officials also claimed that initial visual inspection of these skywalks had become difficult due to heavy cladding.
“We are working out a plan – whether new consultants should be appointed for audit or the existing consultants should be given additional work to do audits. Whatever the case, we will need permission from the Standing Committee, since it will require additional expenditure,” another official in the bridges department said.
Sanjay Darade, chief engineer of the bridges department, however, refused to comment on the matter.
After a foot overbridge outside the CSMT station collapsed in March, the BMC had ordered re-audit of 296 bridges across city.
According to the latest figures provided by the BMC, there are a total of 29 bridges that need to be demolished and reconstructed. The civic body has already demolished eight of these bridges, while nine have been closed for pedestrian and vehicular movement. The remaining 12 are still open to the public.