Saturday, May 31, 2014

102 Floors in 14 Months

Newspapers in Bangalore had a breaking news on 26th May, 2014.  "Bharata Ratna" Prof. C N R Rao underpass, near Indian Institute of Science, Bangalore was inaugurated by the Chief Minister of Karnataka and was ready for use by the public. On the next day, my taxi driver took this route to reach Bangalore International Airport.  We entered the underpass with the hope of turning towards Mekhri Circle. The entry towards Mekhri Circle was blocked with barricades and we had to drive around an extra four or five kilometers to get to the airport road!  For the record, the underpass was completed, inaugurated and in use.

The work on this underpass was scheduled to begin in 2008.  Estimated project cost was 300 million rupees.  The estimated time for completion was 18 months.  Work actually started in 2010. Commencement of the work itself was six months after it was expected to be completed.  As soon as the construction work started, the connecting roads were partially blocked  to enable construction work to progress smoothly.  Blocking progressed quite fast but not the construction.  The general public suffered silently, but they truly believed that this is a way of life.  Two Chief Ministers changed and third Chief Minister inspected the progress(?) of the work in October, 2013.  He set a new deadline of December 2013 for completion.  Since the work was not complete by that time, naturally a new deadline of March, 2014 was set.  The work continued even after this date. Fortunately, the work was reported as completed before another deadline was given. After 52 months from commencement of the work, it was declared completed.  Time overrun was only a very low 289% and not allowing it to cross 300% was no mean achievement.  Labor problems and conflict between two contractors were cited as the reasons for the short delay.  Cost overrun is not disclosed, but interest costs alone would be a significant amount.

Bangalore's cricket stadium, known as KSCA's Chinnaswamy stadium was constructed in the mid 70s.  Mumbai's Wankhade stadium was also constructed around the same time.  Construction of KSCA stadium progressed at a snail's pace due to shortage of cement in those days.  S K Wankhade was Education Minister in the Maharashtra government at that time and the Mumbai stadium, though started afterwards, was completed much before the Bangalore stadium.  Wankhade stadium has since been renovated as well and its seating capacity has also been increased. KSCA stadium stands today as if it is a relic from the past and despite the entry fee for matches going up steeply, spectator amenities are woefully inadequate.  Clubhouse and corporate stands are no doubt maintained luxuriously.   


Last month (17th April 2014), another interesting news item was flashed across many newspapers.  A new  Ford Mustang was placed on the 85th floor observation deck of the Empire State Building in New York, USA.(Picture given alongside is taken from the internet).  This was to commemorate the 50th anniversary of a similar event that took place in 1964.  As the elevators in the building were not big enough to hold the car, it was broken into six individual assemblies and carried to the 85th floor observation deck.  The deck is open to public to view the Manhattan skyline and the New York city buildings from 8AM till midnight 2 AM (18 hours).  The six assemblies were assembled on the observatory during the six hour interval!

In the background of inordinate delays in completion of projects and ever extending deadlines, the story of construction of the Empire State Building makes a very interesting reading.  This building with 102 floors and standing 1250 feet tall was constructed in only 16 months time.  Construction was done in the year 1930-31 and the technology support in construction industry and civil engineering was nowhere near what is available today.  The building was constructed during the period of "Great Depression", a period of severe worldwide economic distress that started in 1930 and lasted for nearly a decade.  Second World War started in 1939 and "Great Depression" was forgotten in its pressures and fury.

The Empire State building stands on a site area of 83,860 square feet and was constructed after demolishing the Waldorf-Astoria hotel that stood there before construction of this building.  Demolition of the hotel building was  done in 9 days, during the end of January 1930.  Construction of the Empire State Building took only 16 months from that time.  Actual period of construction from foundation laying to 102 floors and inauguration of the building was only 14 months! Construction speed was 4 to 5 stories per week and 3,400 workers were used at the peak construction time.  The building was completed four months ahead of schedule. Actual cost of construction was 25 million dollars against an estimate of 41 million dollars.  Thus there was neither cost overrun or time overrun.  The depression helped in reducing construction costs.  There are 1,860 steps from the ground level to the 102nd floor.  But the 73 elevators in the building moving at the astonishing speed of 600 feet to 1400 feet per minute carry occupants of the building and over four million visitors each year in a flash, to the observatory on 85th floor and beyond.

Time and cost overruns can be curtailed only if there is strong resistance and expression of public sentiment against them.  Otherwise, delays and escalating costs coupled with untold misery to the general public will continue to be an accepted part of life.         

13 comments:

  1. Welcome to BBMP, the organisation which is very keen and enthusiastic in squeezing people in the form of taxes yet shows equal amount of laxity and disinclination towards the actual job they are supposed to do

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  2. The callous attitude of people with power in completing projects is deep-rooted in them. There is no commitment and accountability. Public is only a mute spectator. I hope things will change for better. It is becoming apparent to them that they won't be voted back to power if they don't govern. Thanks for this well written blog on the subject.

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    1. Maybe, you are right. But, the unfortunate part is that (most of) the delay would have been caused by the OFFICIALS, who have no elections to face and would get their yearly increment and time-scale promotions, irrespective of the cost or time over run.

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    2. I agree with you. Proper systems should come into place to monitor and evaluate the performance of these officials. After all the performance of a good government depends on the performance of its bureaucrats.

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  3. The comparison between Indian projects and those elsewhere is stark and deeply impresses the readers ! Good one!

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    1. This comment makes me think: those of the followers of this blog, who visit foreign countries more often than others, may furnish experiences/ memories of "Projects in Progress" in repeated trips in years. Personally, I remember the Bandra (Mumbai) flyover construction going-on-and-on for years, noticed during my several visits to Mumbai in three/four years. Basically, wondering whether India is unique in Time-overruns or whether it has allies!

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  4. Only when Governments are run like corporate with responsibility and accountability (of Course with in built rewards and tangible punishments) such situations will change. This is not only with BBMP. Almost with majority of the governments organizations/civic bodies. Let us hope deadlines and deliverables will assume real significance in future at least under the new PM.

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  5. True, good article. Thanks.

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  6. That Empire State Building has been completed 4 months ahead of schedule and at only a little over 50% of the estimated cost is really astonishing. I remember that some of the fly-over projects in Mumbai which were entrusted to private agencies like U.P. construction corpn., were completed before schedule and the contractors earned the incentives. This happened in early 2000s. All it shows is that where there is a will there is a way. Even a public sector corporation, when headed by committed persons like Mr. Sridharan (Delhi Metro), could register a remarkable project completion record. The article is an eye opener. As usual the narration has packed a lot of humour and made an interesting read.

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  7. I just visited New York City two weeks back and I am able to immediately realize what you have brought out. Indeed there is no comparison in the attitude and the will to achieve the goal.

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  8. Nicely written article on our apathy for public woes. Like our newly anointed PM said in his run -up to the elections, " Acche din aanewaale hain" , he is now our only hope and light at the end of the proverbial tunnel. The lackadaisical attitude of our politicians needs a thorough overhaul if we dare to dream of even coming within breathing distance of the developed nations. We have the brains, talent and resources, but lack the will to get there.

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  9. Really nice inspirational article sir.....
    Ur ideas and dedicaation to give us more and more really makes us Proud that we got u as Trade & Finace faculty.
    Thank U Sir.

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  10. Time and cost overrun is the common and definite decease for all the projects involving Govt departments/agencies. The way the new PM has commenced, administration is expected to improve. We hope for good days to come fast. These articles will make the readers to ponder over the public participation which is also lacking since, we are also tend to take things as it comes without any resistance. Thanks Keshu for your continued articles on varied subjects.

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