Mukarba Chowk underpass project in Delhi to miss October deadline
The project involves the construction of the three underpasses by Public Works Department (PWD) at a cost of ₹59.5 crore.
The underpass project at Mukarba Chowk, which is expected to ease traffic snarls on the busy Dr KB Hedgewar Marg in northwest Delhi, has run into several delays and will miss its October deadline, officials aware of the development said, adding that only 10% of the work is complete so far.
The project involves the construction of the three underpasses by Public Works Department (PWD) at a cost of ₹59.5 crore — the main underpass near gate number 3 of Haiderpur-Badli Metro station will facilitate pedestrians and non-motorised vehicles, the second will be for commuters travelling between Badli and Shalimar Bagh, and the third will be for the movement of heavy vehicles from Sanjay Gandhi Transport Nagar to Azadpur.
A senior PWD official said that according to initial estimates, the project — the construction of which began in September 2022 — was supposed to be completed in 12 months. However, land acquisition disputes and utility transfer issues derailed the project, the official said, adding that the underpass will now likely be ready only by June next year.
“Construction work on this project was affected by the non-availability of a no objection certificate (NOC) from the irrigation and flood control (I&FC) department as well as the non-shifting of utilities by the Indraprastha Gas Limited (IGL) and power distribution companies. Many underground power lines and natural gas pipelines pass along the alignment of the underpass. The issues related to land were finally resolved on July 7, and the project may now be completed by June next year,” the official said, declining to be named.
IGL and power discom Tata Power Delhi Distribution Limited (DDL) said that the work of shifting utilities would begin soon.
An IGL spokesperson said, “In a review meeting held with the PWD secretary on August 4, it was mutually agreed that IGL shall complete the diversion job by mid-September.”
A Tata Power DDL spokesperson said the shifting of electrical services will begin once all necessary government permissions are approved, but hinted that the project could face further delays. “A joint inspection was carried out with the PWD team, and a scheme was proposed to the PWD (for relocation) and is currently under review by ETC (expert technical committee). Upon approval by ETC, the scheme will be forwarded to DERC (Delhi Electricity Regulatory Commission) for further approval,” he said.
Construction on the Mukarba Chowk project began in June 2022, but ran into land acquisition obstacles — PWD in September 2022 requested a permanent transfer of land for the construction of an approach road up to the underpass from the I&FC department, and started construction in anticipation of the land transfer. However, the IF&C department did not respond to the request, and filed a police complaint over the construction. The subsequent tussle between the two departments over the following months stalled the work.
Eventually, after a delay of nearly 11 months, lieutenant governor (LG) VK Saxena on July 7 approved the transfer of a 1.2-acre pocket of land from the I&FC department to PWD, and flagged the lack of communication between the two departments.
HT reached out to the I&FC department, but officials there did not respond to queries seeking comments.
Commuters, meanwhile, continue to face issues due to delays in the project.
Hemant Sehrawat, a resident of Alipur in north Delhi and a regular commuter on the key intersection, said he gets stuck in traffic for around 30-40 minutes during the peak evening hours as several mini-buses, taxis and e-rickshaws halt on the Mukarba Chowk flyover. “No one takes action against them. A lot of time and fuel is wasted,” he said.
Dr S Velmurugan, chief scientist and head of traffic engineering and safety division of Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), said that the issues related to land possession and utility transfer should be part of the prior planning before the project is started on ground.
“A ground penetrating radar can be easily used to find the status of the underground utilities. The shifting of such utilities should be factored in the planning stage. Moreover, the infrastructure projects should not be started without at least 90% of land being in the possession of the agency,” he said.