Medigadda returns to haunt BRS, company says can't work for free

Hyderabad: There appear to be no end to the woes of the former BRS government over controversies relating to the quality of construction of the Kaleshwaram lift irrigation scheme after the sinking of a pier of the Medigadda barrage, with construction major Larsen & Toubro, which built the structure, informing the irrigation department that it cannot take up rectification works for free.

Soon after the pier sank and the structure developed serious cracks, L&T had issued a terse statement that it was “committed to participate in the process of restoring the Block 7 in the Lakshmi Bridge (Medigadda Barrage) that developed some settlement and cracks in a portion of Block 7 on the evening of 21st October 2023. The barrage had been constructed by L&T Construction, as per the design provided by the authorities to the quality & standards for the State of Telangana and handed over in 2019. The barrage has since been in operation having withstood the last five flood seasons. The matter is under investigation and deliberation by competent authorities. L&T will take appropriate action to restore the damaged portion as soon as the competent authorities conclude on the remedial measures.”

Though in its statement there was no mention that it will foot the bill for the repairs, the then BRS government had claimed that L&T will pay for the cost of the repairs.

Before taking up any repair work, or even to examine the extent of the damage to assess what rectification is needed to save the structure, a cofferdam around the damaged pier in Block 7 of the barrage needs to be constructed, and this work alone is estimated to cost anywhere upwards of '50 crore. While no estimates of actual repair work can be made until the damage is assessed which can happen only after complete dewatering around the pier by building a cofferdam, various figures have been bandied about the repair costs that varied anywhere between Rs 300 crore and Rs 500 crore.

The company, in its letter to the irrigation department on December 2, is reported to have made it clear that it cannot be held liable for the damage to the pier as its period of contract for defect liability had ended in March 2023.

According to sources, L&T was issued a letter of completion of works to the satisfaction of the irrigation department on March 15, 2021 after which the two-year defect liability period of the company kicked into effect, which ended on March 14, this year. With this being the status, the company reportedly made it clear that it cannot pay for the repairs.

The sources also said it was surprising that the department chose to issue the completion certificate, particularly after the aprons at the Medigadda barrage were damaged after the 2019 floods to Godavari after which the irrigation department failed to ask L&T to take up repairs.

“This being the case, the irrigation department should not have issued the completion certificate,” the sources said.

However, an irrigation department official claimed that L&T was still responsible for operation and maintenance of the barrage for a period of 15 years, adding that this being the case, the company may be claiming that cofferdam construction is a new work and that it should be paid for it, and should not be asking for funds to take up the actual repair work. However, there was no clarity if the O&M responsibilities of the company were limited to works related to the operation of the barrage gates or extend to the civil works that will include the entire structure.

( Source : Deccan Chronicle. )
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