While the state government has announced its plan to start construction of the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial later this month, it has now emerged that the revised design of the memorial does not have the required approvals from the project’s technical committee.
In February, the Project Management Consultant made a series of changes to the design of the equestrian statue and pedestal, together envisioned as the world’s tallest statue, in order to bring down its overall cost. In addition to the fact that it is yet to be okayed afresh by the technical committee, the project is also missing a crucial No Objection Certificate (NOC) from the Mumbai Fire Brigade, which had made safety recommendations for the memorial, which will be built in the Arabian Sea off Mumbai’s Marine Drive.
The memorial — a 121.2-metre statue standing atop an 88.8-metre pedestal — is a flagship project of the BJP-led government in the state. Prime Minister Narendra Modi laid its foundation stone and conducted the ‘jal-poojan’ in December 2016.
Documents accessed by The Indian Express under the Right to Information (RTI) Act show that issues pertaining to the technical committee’s approval, arrangements to deal with a fire or other emergencies as well as an NOC from the fire department were discussed at a meeting of the project implementation, monitoring and co-ordination committee that is headed by legislator Vinayak Mete on September 5. The absence of a go-ahead from the technical committee was also discussed by Mete at a previous meeting, on July 24. In spite of this, a work order was issued on September 11 to Larsen & Toubro, the project contractor, by the state Public Works Department (PWD).
According to the minutes of the September 5 meeting that are recorded in Marathi: “The project work does not have the administrative and technical committee approval. The cost-optimisation report submitted by the Project Management Consultant does not have the technical committee’s approval. It may create hurdles in the future. It is required to have the technical committee’s approval at the state government level. Considering the urgency of the project, the technical committee should convene a meeting at the earliest and give approval to the cost-optimisation report.”
The technical committee for the project is headed by the principal secretary, PWD. Its last meeting was held on April 21, 2017. In February 2018, a cost-optimisation report was prepared by Egis India Consulting Engineers Pvt Ltd, the Project Management Consultant appointed for the Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Memorial. Its cost-cutting measures included changes in design, deletion of items and phasing of works to reduce the cost of the project from Rs 3,826 crore to Rs 2,500 crore. The design changes made include reduction of reclamation area, reduction of the height of a seawall to be built, reduction of height of pedestal and statue while increasing the length of the sword held aloft by the warrior king.
The implementation and monitoring committee expressed shock at the September 5 meeting that the technical committee’s approval had not been sought. It asked representatives of the consultant firm and PWD officials who would be responsible if any technical issues are to arise in the future. The minutes also state that Chief Minister Devendra Fadnavis was not informed about the absent approval of the technical committee. According to the minutes, Mete expressed his opposition to these lapses. In addition, the implementation and monitoring committee suggested that changes made by the consultant in its cost-optimisation report be vetted by the Central Water and Power Research Station (CWPRS), Pune.
Further, the minutes say members took note of the fact that the current project design has not made adequate arrangements for fire or other emergency, nor has an NOC been obtained from the Mumbai Fire Brigade. This matter came to light when officials of the Mumbai Fire Brigade raised the issue at the meeting. “As the pedestal would be considered a highrise building, it must have a fire rescue floor, evacuation and exit points. Such provisions have not been made by the PMC,” the minutes note.
The committee suggested that a plan be devised for evacuation of people from the memorial site in case of emergencies, and also a plan for how fire-fighting equipment would reach the island in such an eventuality. Sources in the PWD confirmed that the technical committee’s fresh approval for the revised design is required as the memorial is located in the sea and every aspect of planning and design must be scrutinised by the technical committee.
While the minutes of the meeting record PWD officials as conceding that there is no approval from the technical committee, Principal Secretary (PWD) Manoj Saunik said, “There might not have been technical committee’s approval, but the members of the technical committee are also there in the High Power Committee and their inputs have been taken into consideration.” He said there were some fresh technical queries raised that will have to be looked into. When contacted, Mete refused to comment on the issue.