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Cracks on Atal Setu Sparks Corruption Allegations and Safety Concerns

Maharashtra Congress president Nana Patole on Friday leveled serious allegations of corruption in the construction of the recently inaugurated Atal Setu, a sea bridge connecting south Mumbai to Navi Mumbai. Patole highlighted that cracks had appeared on the structure within months of its unveiling, raising significant safety concerns and questioning the quality of construction.

Patole, who conducted a personal inspection of the bridge, pointed out that a portion of the road had subsided by one foot. His allegations of substandard construction practices set off a wave of concern among the public.

The Atal Bihari Vajpayee Sewri-Nhava Sheva Atal Setu, commonly referred to as the Mumbai Trans-Harbour Link (MTHL), was inaugurated in January of this year amid much fanfare. This six-lane bridge, stretching for 21.8 km with 16.5 km of it spanning the sea, was built at a staggering cost of Rs 17,840 crore.

Speaking to reporters, Patole condemned what he described as an egregious level of corruption by the state government, which he alleged had not only squandered public money but also endangered lives.

“A portion of the Atal Setu bridge has developed cracks within three months of its inauguration. Additionally, a half-a-kilometre-long stretch of the road near Navi Mumbai has caved in by a foot. This project alone has cost Rs 18,000 crore,” said Patole. “The bridge has been named after former Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee, yet the government has indulged in corruption. This is very unfortunate,” he lamented.

Patole did not stop with criticism about the bridge. He also accused the authorities of disregarding environmental norms for the Navi Mumbai International Airport project, claiming that mangroves had been destroyed in the process.

In response to these allegations, the ruling BJP swiftly came forward with clarifications.

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. They emphasized that the cracks were not on the bridge itself but on the approach road leading from Ulwe in Navi Mumbai. The Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA), the nodal agency for the Atal Setu project, issued a statement to this effect.

“There have been rumours circulating about cracks on the MTHL bridge. We want to clarify that these cracks are not on the bridge itself but on the approach road connecting the MTHL from Ulwe towards Mumbai,” stated the MMRDA.

They detailed that an inspection by their Operation and Maintenance team on June 20, 2024, revealed minor cracks on the road surface near the edges at three locations on Ramp 5, the ramp towards Mumbai. These cracks, they emphasized, were minor longitudinal cracks in the asphalt pavement and not structural defects.

“The contractor has already commenced the repair work, which will be completed within 24 hours. This work is being carried out without causing any disruption to traffic,” the agency added, seeking to assure the public of both safety and quick rectification.

The BJP also voiced their concerns on X, the platform formerly known as Twitter, with a strong statement: “Stop maligning Atal Setu.”

Despite these reassurances, the allegations by a prominent political figure such as Nana Patole have left a mark. As the situation develops, it throws a spotlight on broader issues of construction quality, public safety, and the governance of large-scale infrastructure projects.

The Atal Setu, described as an engineering marvel, is not only a crucial piece of infrastructure but also a symbol of modern connectivity meant to catapult Mumbai’s infrastructure into the future. Its ability to safely support this vision is now under scrutiny.

Moreover, Patole’s comments about the environmental impact of the Navi Mumbai International Airport highlight another facet of development in the region. The controversies surrounding ecological damage in the name of progress underline the tenuous balance between infrastructure development and environmental preservation.

As repair works proceed and the political discourse heats up, the citizens of Mumbai and Navi Mumbai watch attentively, hoping that their safety is placed above bureaucratic and political skirmishes. The rapid response by the MMRDA promises swift mitigation of the immediate problem, but the revelations have sparked a larger conversation about accountability and the long-term integrity of major public works.