To think it was intended to showcase the India Shining story to the world at large. It's now fast morphing into a cliffhanger no Indian would have wanted. Can India prevent the Games from becoming an unmitigated disaster? We'll find out soon enough, but the country is already paying a huge price for what may well be a no-show by Indian Olympic Committee Chairman Suresh Kalmadi and his troupe. At last count, the cost for the Commonwealth Games was an eye-popping Rs 30,000 crore. Yes, there's the familiar stench of graft and crony capitalism that has bedevilled independent India. UPA Chairperson Sonia Gandhi has said that heads will roll after the Games and, indeed, they must.
Amidst the shroud of gloom there is little to write home about. And yet, hidden away from the media glare, there are a few projects that promise to make a difference on the ground in the capital New Delhi. Take the Ring Road bypass, for instance, which will ease congestion on the busy ITO-ISBT stretch in the Indian capital. Or the Kushak and Sunheri nullah (or drain) parking project, which could be replicated in other metros to ease their parking woes. Or the eco-friendly Thyagaraj stadium, which sets a few "green" benchmarks.
This, of course, in no way means condoning the utter mismanagement of the Games' preparation. Instead, it only gives a glimpse of what may have been if India had put its best foot forward. Read on to discover how five projects will make a telling impact on the ground.
Parking lots at Kushak and Sunehri Nullahs
COST: Rs 304 crore
BENEFITS: More parking space in congested Delhi The model can be replicated in other cities
The Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD) decided to build parking bays near the Jawaharlal Nehru Stadium by covering two huge drains - Kushak and Sunheri - in the vicinity. Although the stadium has its own parking, it's not big enough for the buses that will ferry players from the Games Village. And since the Lodhi Road neighbourhood, where the stadium is located, is already very congested, the MCD decided to make use of the drainage area for creating parking space.
The project is now complete and will be handed over to the MCD soon. The Sunheri nullah parking, which is 940 metres long, can accommodate up to 350 buses and the Kushak nullah, which is over 1 km long, has room for 450 buses. After the Games, the Sunheri nullah parking will be used by visitors and employees working at the Central Government Offices (CGO) Complex located in the vicinity.
"The nullahs are used either as dumping pits or are encroached by builders and slum dwellers. This is a novel experiment which could ease the parking problems in big cities and could also be huge revenue earners for the exchequer," says Piyush Agrawal, General Manager, Buildings and Infrastructure, Punj Lloyd, the company that was involved in both design and construction of the project. Indeed, experts feel this is one of the few Commonwealth Games projects which can be replicated across the country.
Ring Road Bypass
COST: Rs 650 crore
BENEFITS: Reduce traffic congestion between ITO and ISBT Ring Road Will ensure uninterrupted flow of traffic between East Delhi and Ring Road
The signal-free 5.5-km elevated corridor will ease the traffic congestion on the adjoining Ring Road stretch as well by diverting almost 80 per cent of its traffic. On an average, the traffic volume on the Ring Road between ISBT and ITO in Central Delhi is between 35,000 and 40,000 passenger car units (PCUs) a day. This should reduce to 7,000-8,000 PCUs a day. Four loop lanes and four slip roads along the bypass are specially built to ease the traffic flow.
The bypass is built with pavement-quality concrete (PQC) roads. "Even under heavy traffic, PQC roads last for over 30 years without any major maintenance whereas the normal bituminous roads require heavy maintenance and yet have a life of less than 10 years," says S.K. Pal, Project Manager, Simplex Infrastructure, which is handling the project.
The Games Go Green
Thyagaraj Sports Complex
COST : Rs 297 crore
BENEFITS: Eco-friendly stadium with minimum carbon footprint Solar and gas-turbine energy will power over 3,000 homes
The eco-friendly sports complex sets a few "green" benchmarks. It is the only stadium in the country constructed on the "green building" concept and is powered by a one-megawatt (MW) solar plant. Another 3.5 MW will be generated through a CNG-fired turbine. After the Games' curtain-call, the solar energy generated will be used within the complex and also feed electricity into the grid. There's more. The stadium has effective rainwater harvesting systems installed. Water harnessed thus, together with water recovered from a sewage effluents treatment plant, will used for horticulture.
"First World" Water
Water Treatment Plant
COST : Rs 35.2 crore
BENEFITS: Meets the WHO's drinking water standards No need for further purification through RO or other methods
The Delhi Jal Board has set up an automated water treatment plant (WTP) inside the village capable of producing one million gallons of purified water per day. This new WTP has multi-stage filtration and the processed water will best the standards of all the municipalities of the country and, officials claim, is equivalent to the World Health Organisation's (WHO's) drinking water standards. "It's the first time any government body has built a WTP of this scale using this technology to supply potable water for mass consumption," says Vivek Hemmady, Chief Manager, Construction, VA Tech Wabag, the water treatment firm involved in the construction and maintenance of the plant.
After the Games, the plant will service residents of the village and adjoining areas. At a cost of Rs 13-14 per 1,000 litres, the water from the new plant will be 30-40 per cent costlier than the conventional filtration process various municipal bodies use across the country. "Today, many households have installed reverse osmosis (RO) systems that can only be used for drinking and cooking purposes. With this plant you don't need a separate RO system," says Hemmady. He believes upscale residential blocks wouldn't mind paying more and there will be a growing demand for such WTPs in the country.
Open air escalators
COST: Rs 9 crore
BENEFITS: Will help reduce road accidents involving pedestrians Easy to construct without obstructing traffic
Foot overbridges with escalators are being preferred the failed experiment with subways, which city residents are increasingly wary of using due to incidence of crimes.
"Over the last few years, due to their high construction costs and safety issues, subways have fallen out of favour," says Uday Kulkarni, Managing Director of elevator and escalator maker Schindler India.