2010 dawns, but Delhi unprepared for Commonwealth GamesJanuary 14, 2010
NEW DELHI: Delhi steps into the year of the Commonwealth Games (CWG) struggling to battle infrastructural delays, unending construction work and unimaginable traffic snarls.
The Oct 3-14 Games will have 17 disciplines to be organised at six venue clusters and five stand-alone stadiums in the metropolis. Yet, not a single venue is anywhere near completion.
Work at the Jawaharlal Nehru stadium, which will host the opening and closing ceremonies, is way behind schedule and India’s sports minister announced on Monday that it will be ready only in June. Delhi Chief Minister Sheila Dikshit has admitted the slow pace of work is making her nervous.
Over 100,000 visitors are expected during the Games and there is a big shortfall in the number of rooms ready for them. As against 40,000 rooms required, only 10,000 rooms are available. The tourism ministry is trying to rope in budget hotels and guest houses near the New Delhi Railway Station and the suburbs. A clearer picture will emerge only by mid-year.
Home Minister P Chidambaram had informed the Lok Sabha during the winter session that the city skyline will be clear of the tangled mesh of cable TV, Internet and telephone wires and that the cabling will go underground.
Another major concern is Delhi’s serpentine traffic as well as poor public transport system. The Delhi government’s Public Works Department (PWD) is racing against time to give the city a makeover.
The civic authorities have already spent billions of rupees on building flyovers, roads, and new bus stops as well as on street-scaping and signages.
“We are constructing 24 flyovers for the Games. Of these, 12 are operational and another 12 will be ready in time for the Games. The infrastructure is not essentially for the event, it is part of the city’s routine developmental work,” PWD secretary KK Sharma said.
To ease traffic congestion, the public transport system is being strengthened and, in three months, the notorious Blueline buses are expected to be phased out.
About 3,500 low-floor buses will replace the Bluelines, but the recent fires in them has put a question mark on their safety. Around 950 low-floor buses are running on city roads now.
The only agency which seems to be meeting the deadlines is Delhi Metro, but its reputation, too, was tarnished in 2009 with a couple of accidents leading to loss of life.
Several countries scheduled to participate in the Games have raised concerns over security, but the government is firm in saying that they need not have any fears. The authorities have approved installation of an integrated security system (ISS), estimated to cost Rs.370 crore (Rs 3.7 billion), to cover all the venues.
Though the government has been promising security upgradation, it is still in the process of purchasing the equipment, raising questions on whether the security agencies would have enough time to train their personnel to handle the gadgets.
A big worry is the air quality during the Games. The Indian Institute of Tropical Meteorology (IITM), Pune, has developed a System of Air Pollution Forecasting and Research (SAFAR) that will start functioning in a couple of months.
“The system will tell us the quality of air at a given moment and also what it will be 24 hours later, thus alerting people and helping them avoid immediate exposure to unhealthy air,” Gufran Beig, SAFAR scientist and project director, said.
The Commonwealth Games Organising Committee recently launched a programme — Delhi United — to recruit and train 30,000 volunteers to present Delhi’s culture and etiquette.
The authorities are also training thousands of bus, taxi and auto drivers to converse in English and make them sound polite and tourist-friendly.
The centre and the state governments have lined up a host of cultural programmes during the Games. Neighbouring state Haryana is chipping in with a fair on the lines of the Surajkund Mela.
The question is how fast the plans fructify and whether everything will be in order before the opening ceremony Oct 3.