CPPR Chairman Dr D Dhanuraj comments in an article published in The News Minute on the reconstruction of the Palarivattom flyover.

Image source: The News Minute

What does the reconstruction of the flyover mean for the motorists of Kochi who are already suffering because of the bumpy roads and traffic jams in city?

The Kerala government recently announced that the controversial flyover at Palarivattom in Kochi, built at a cost of Rs 48 crore, should be reconstructed. With the reconstruction estimated to cost an additional Rs 18 crore, the Palarivattom flyover has become an example of the state machinery’s mismanagement of tax payers’ money.

The flyover was closed in May 2019, two years after it was thrown open to the public, after experts found major faults with the structure. Though it was initially closed down for a month, an expert inquiry into the cracks that had appeared on the structure finally made the government come to a decision that a major portion of the flyover should be reconstructed.

Four persons, including former Secretary of Public Works Department (PWD) Soorej TO, have been arrested by the Vigilance and Anti-Corruption Bureau (VACB) in connection with the scam.

The flyover, which has 17 spans made of Reinforced Cement Concrete (RCC), will have to be demolished and constructed with Prestressed Concrete (PSC) girders, as per the report submitted by E Sreedharan, Principal Advisor of Delhi Metro Rail Corporation, to Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan.

But what does the reconstruction of the flyover – an unavoidable exercise – mean for the motorists of Kochi who are already hassled by the bumpy roads and traffic jams in the city?

Traffic

The announcement that the flyover will be reconstructed comes at a time when motorists in Kochi are already suffering due to the pothole-ridden roads in the city. A majority of the important roads in Kochi have been lying in a dilapidated condition for the past many months, and officials are yet to complete the maintenance work of most of them.

“The traffic during the time of the flyover’s construction was unbearable. To think that we will have to again undergo the same situation is troublesome,” said Gautham Salim, a Kochi resident.

According to the expert report submitted by E Sreedharan, who conducted inspections of the flyover twice, a total of 10 months will be required to complete the reconstruction work of the structure.

“Let it be the last time,” says Linus Xavier, another motorist and a student who plies through the city daily.

The only positive aspect of the reconstruction work for the people of Kochi is that the work will be done under the guidance of E Sreedharan. “The only comforting factor here is the involvement of E Sreedharan who is known for his credibility in undertaking projects and the punctuality with which he finishes it,” said Biju Mangalath, who is part of Anti Corruption People’s Movement.

Though there are apprehensions about how Kochi will handle the traffic congestion once the reconstruction work starts, experts opine that it will be manageable.   

“The first alternative which people can opt for is the Kochi Metro. Those coming from Aroor to the city can take the metro from Vytilla, avoid the Palarivattom stretch and reach the city. Another basic thing that should be done immediately is to complete the maintenance work of the city roads, keeping in mind that they should be able to bear more traffic load,” said Dr D Dhanuraj, an expert in the field of urbanisation who is also the Chairman and Managing Trustee of Centre for Public Policy Research.

Environmental concern

Another possible concern regarding the reconstruction of the 440 metre long flyover is the environmental hazard it may cause.

Dust pollution because of the condition of roads in Kochi is an already existing problem and has worsened over the past couple of months.

“What will be equally concerning along with the traffic congestion is the effect of the dust pollution on pedestrians and motorists,” said Gautham.

Experts say that this concern is graver than what people assume. 

“According to reports, there has been an increase in thoracic diseases, especially in children in Kochi and this is associated with the condition of the atmosphere in the city,” said Dr CM Joy, an environmentalist.

“Apart from the corruption involved in this, this scam also has done environmental damage because the resources used for its construction are now deemed a waste,” added Dr Joy.

The report submitted by E Sreedharan also states that the reconstruction work will involve demolishing the structure and that the disposal of the waste can raise environmental concerns. However, the report also suggests a possible solution to address this issue – cutting girders in geometrical shapes so that they can be used in place of boulders in sea walls.

It is also notable that the environmental concern about the reconstruction of the flyover has been raised at a time when apprehension still exists on the demolition of four apartment buildings in Kochi. 

This news article was published in The News Minute on 18 September 2019, Click on to read