After CSMT FoB collapse, what about 278 bridges in Mumbai the auditor said were safe?

Thursday’s incident, where six people were killed as a slab from the Himalaya bridge outside Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj Terminus (CSMT) collapsed, has led to one question – How safe are the other 278 civic-owned bridges that were declared “not dilapidated” in a third-party structural audit?

The structural audit report of 296 bridges in Mumbai, conducted between September 2016 and August 2018, was presented in August 2018, a month after the Gokhale Bridge collapse in Andheri in July 2018.

It said 110 bridges were in good condition, not needing repairs; 107 required minor repairs, and 61 were in need of major repairs and 18 were dilapidated beyond repair.

The same report said Himalaya Bridge was in “good condition, needing very minor repairs”. The findings raise doubts on not just the credibility of the audit, but also the accuracy of the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation’s (BMC) audit procedure for infrastructure.

The auditor, DD Desai Associated Engineering Consultants and Analysts Pvt Ltd, also inspected 39 other bridges in the city, and declared 31 in need of major repairs, while 8 others needing minor repairs.

Jaswant Arlekar, a certified structural consultant empanelled by BMC who inspected the Himalaya Bridge on Friday, said, “The structural audit carried out a year ago was not an audit in the real sense. Procedurally, there are four stages to conducting an audit of any infrastructure. In Mumbai, we carry out only one-and-a-half of them, reasons being lack of time, and limited budget for the third-party auditor. This is the main problem. Their conclusion may not be accurate, as is proved by the collapse.”

According to him, the four stages of an audit are –visual inspection, physical testing, preliminary analysis and detailed analysis of the load-bearing capacity of the structure by testing it in a controlled environment. Each of these are time consuming, and costly.

Activist Godfrey Pimenta said, “How can we be sure the remaining bridges in the city are safe and that such mistakes have not been committed elsewhere?”

Ravi Raja, leader of Opposition in BMC, said, “It took BMC the Mahad Bridge tragedy to order an audit of the bridges. Before September 2016, the BMC did not even have an inventory of all bridges. It took yet another bridge collapse at Andheri to submit the report. And this third bridge tragedy has prompted the civic body to question the credibility of its audit report.”

First Published:
Mar 16, 2019 01:38 IST

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