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Trenches dug for water pipes being refilled with soil

By Rituraj Borthakur

GUWAHATI, April 4 - Guwahatians are in for some bumpy ride on the city roads in the days to come, courtesy the water supply project coming up under the ADB-funded Assam Urban Infrastructure Investment Programme (AUIIP).

The implementing agency has been charged with refilling the trenches dug for installing the water supply pipes with �unapproved� materials which will make the roads bumpy and leave them vulnerable to frequent cracks and damage.

The State government had earlier given the AUIIP a �blanket approval� to lay the pipeline under the existing road stretch from Basistha to Narengi via Tripura Road, VIP Road and Mother Teresa Road, an official source told The Assam Tribune. Accordingly, the AUIIP has been laying the 70-cm diameter water pipes by excavating two-metre trenches along the roads.

However, after laying the pipes, the implementing agency has been allegedly refilling the trenches with the excavated clayey soil �violating the norms of backfilling.�

According to the standard procedure, backfilling should be done with approved materials �available from excavation, well graded sand, fine gravel or other approved materials.�

When contacted, a senior PWD official admitted that �it has come to our knowledge as well.� The PWD is monitoring the quality and specification of the restoration work of the excavated roads.

�We have checked the ongoing restoration works and detected irregularities. Accordingly, the government higher-ups have been informed,� the PWD official said.

Another senior PWD official pointed out that if the excavated roads are refilled in this manner, it would not be possible to maintain the roads in future. �Clayey soil is expansive and prone to swelling and shrinking that are directly related to changes in water content. If the trenches are refilled with such excavated soil, there will be frequent damage on the road stretches. The roads will be prone to crocodile cracks and become undulating and bumpy. Ruts and depression will develop due to the clayey layer beneath the top layer. The restored stretch will become prone to accidents,� the official said.

He said that the only remedy is to take out the clayey soil and refill the trenches with stone dust, sand or granular materials. �Otherwise, we are creating a non-durable asset which would require repeated resurfacing, putting a heavy burden on the exchequer,� he added.

A source quoted the AUIIP as saying that after hydro-testing �all unspecified materials would be re-excavated and the trenches refilled with approved materials.�

But it is anybody�s guess if the refilled trenches would be re-excavated and restored with �approved materials� later. Moreover, hydro-testing, it is learnt, would not be done all along the water pipes, but only at certain points.

According to the minutes of a meeting held on March 6 last under the chairmanship of the Additional Chief Secretary of PWD, the pipe laying, required testing and restoration of the entire right lane of VIP Road to the original condition and Tripura Road should be completed within April. Conscious citizens have demanded a high-level probe into the irregularities.

�We must also see if the implementing contractors are quoting rates of approved materials in their bills but using only the excavated soil to refill the trenches. There has to be a thorough investigation,� Opposition leader Debabrata Saikia reacted when asked.

The city has been divided into four water supply zones. The water supply projects in the north and south-central zones are financed by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA).

In south Guwahati, water supply in the west zone is financed under the Jawaharlal Nehru National Urban Renewal Mission, and the proposed ADB assistance is for the south-east zone.

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