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Who is responsible for making STP Plants white elephants? NMTV Weekend Expose

When NMMC decided to spend over Rs. 200 Crores on hi-tech STP Plants in Navi Mumbai, the justification given to tax payers was that the project would be eco-friendly and will generate revenue but with little planning done for connectivity of the STPs and transportation of potable water, as of today the new hi tech STP plants have become white elephants for NMMC. After NCP Corporator M K Madhvi criticized the NMMC administration for the way they are handling the project in this month’s general body meeting, the biggest question that has surfaced is whether NMMC Additional City Engineer – Surindra Patil – the man in charge of STP plants is responsible for making STP plants white elephants?

In March 2008, when NCP Supremo Sharad Pawar arrived in Navi Mumbai to inaugurate the hi-tech STP plants built with over Rs. 200 Crores of the tax-payer’s money, everyone was impressed. After all NMMC became the first civic body in the country to construct an eco friendly sewerage treatment plant that would generate Crores in the form of income as well. The spirits of NMMC that day were so high, that the NMMC administration went on to claim that the recycled sewerage water from the hi-tech STP plants would be potable enough for drinking but due to psychological reasons NMMC said it would sell the water to industries and commercial establishments besides using it for gardening and other purposes. Who doesn’t remember the former Urban Development Minister for State Rajesh Tope parroting the same claim as told to him by NMMC engineers?

Not surprisingly, within months of the inauguration, all tall claims of NMMC administration fell flat on its face. Ill planning of NMMC administration was exposed when it came to light that neither of the STP plants had pipeline connectivity to transport water to areas where it could be used nor NMMC administration was ready with n alternate plan for selling recycled potable water from each of the 3 Rs. 200 Crore STP Plants constructed at Nerul, Vashi and Airoli. The confessions of the administration that followed this expose were appalling as the then NMMC Commissioner Vijay Nahata raised hands on selling water unless they spent another Rs. 400 Crores on playing pipelines. NMTV was the first to report this in 2008. At that time the former Commissioner had assured that the NMMC administration would be able to sell water through an alternate plan by the end of 2008.

It’s not like there are no takers for the recycled water. The industrial belt that comes under NMMC’s jurisdiction is a huge market for sale of recycled water. Industrialists who spoke to NMTV News earlier had voiced their concern on the increasing rate of water and shared that they would buy the recycled water from NMMC any day. For three years the NMMC administration has ignored the demand of the industry for potable water and sat on its assurance doing nothing about executing sale of potable water from STP plants until this month when they brought a proposal in the NMMC General Body. Well, considering the trend in NMMC, the content of the proposal did not surprise anyone. Like most times when NMMC own official’s expertise fails, even this time the administration has proposed to hire a consultant for sale of potable water from STP plants. The lone corporator who voiced his apprehensions about the proposal was NCP Corporator M K Madhvi. Putting a question mark on the necessity of bringing about such a proposal, NCP Corporator M K Madhvi said that perhaps if they require a consultant to sell water, then perhaps there is not need of corporators.

M K Madhvi hit out at the officer-in-charge of STP plants Surendra Patil and said that this very proposal was sent back to NMMC administration for revision; but Surendra Patil’s department never revised the proposal and brought it back as it is to the general body again. When Additional City Engineer started to give another lame justification, M K Madhvi exposed Surendra Patil’s failure stating that he was lying to the general body of corporators.

After the meeting, once again alleging that Additional City Engineer Surendra Patil is lying, M K Madhvi sarcastically said that perhaps attending general body meetings is a mistake. The face of between Corporator M K Madhvi and Additional City Engineer Surendra Patil at the monthly general body meeting has once again triggered debate: Are engineers like Surendra Patil incompetent, incapable; inexperienced and inefficient to execute such ambitious projects of NMMC like the hi-tech STP plants costing crores of the tax payers money? The project has been under Surendra Patil since they were built, but till date the official has failed to execute claims of his own department about generating Crores in the form of revenue from STP Plants. At NMMC, Surendra Patil, the main at the centre of the controversy defended the failure to implement revenue plan and said that revenue was their last priority. What the officer informed next was a shocker as he said that it will take another couple of years before any revenue is generated from the STP plant.
The big question is “Why are officials not held accountable and responsible for delay in executing such crucial projects in NMMC?” After all its not a few Crores but nearly 200 Crores of public taxes that one is speaking about. What has disappointed citizens more is that the speed and urgency that Additional City Engineer Surendra Patil’s department shows in bringing proposals of constructing public toilets in the city, the same determination and will to execute lacks when it comes to projects like STP plants? May be its because there are no kickbacks in the sale of potable water through STP plants. Or may be its because engineers and officials are being promoted in NMMC through their personal clout and not on merit that major projects like STP plants are suffering. It may be recalled that in his last janta darbaar, even Thane Guardian Minister Ganesh Naik voiced apprehensions in promoting NMMC officials and said that if inefficient and non-performing officials are promoted, citizens will question their leadership. He even instructed Dy. Municipal Commissioner Jagannath Sinnarkar, to justify their decisions of promoting officials every time they make such proposals and table it for the approval of the NMMC General Body.

It may be noted that even Surendra Patil was an Executive Engineer in NMMC before being promoted as the Additional City Engineer and it is under him that the STP plants have failed to serve the complete purpose they were built for. The question is, when will officials who are promoted made accountable for failing to execute projects worth 100s of Crores of public taxes?

Ambitious projects like STP plants have cost huge investments from the tax-payer’s money and are not able to yield expected results on time. Built by spending over Rs. 200 Crores, money continues to be drained in one way or the other in running this high-maintenance STP plants. Now the million dollar question is that whether the officer—in-charge’s incapability, inefficiency, and incompetency is responsible for making NMMC’s STP plants white elephants? With bureau inputs, Sana Warsia for NMTV News.

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