September 8 - Indian builders are working around the clock to try to make sure that the £200 million Athletes Village for next year's Commonwealth Games in New Delhi is finished in time.
More than 7,000 labourers are crammed around the 34 towers on the 11-hectare site, living in a makeshift Village on its fringes and toiling day and night to complete the project by the deadline of March next year.
Sanjay Malhotra, the chief operating officer of Emaar MGF, the giant real estate devlopers who are overseeing construction of the Village, said: “Logistics-wise, this is one of the most challenging projects which may exist in this country.
"There’s very little free space for labour camps and the storage yards.”
The amount of workers involved in the construction has increased four-fold since April, when the economic crisis meant the lead contractor, Ahluwalia, had to stop paying its workers and was unable to buy cement and steel to carry on with the job.
More than 8,500 athletes and officials are due to be housed in the Village when the Games open on October 3, 2010.
It is the biggest sports event to be staged in India since the 1982 Asian Games.
Construction was kick-started when Delhi Development Authority (DDA) came to the company’s aid in May by buying 333 additional flats for £14 million, a discount of more than 12 per cent but which has allowed the project to get back on track.
The project has also been hit by a legal dispute over environmental fears and earlier this month potentially deadly dengue mosquitoes were founding breeding on the site and health inspectors were forced to fumigate it.
Malhorta said: “If I may use an analogy from a game of cricket, the ‘asking rate’ has kept going up.
"A lot of work which could have been finished earlier got postponed to a later date, so we now have to concentrate and finish that work in the limited time that’s available."
There are plans to increase the number of workers involved on the site up to 9,000 before the end of the year.
Malhorta said: “We were in a very peculiar situation.
"Builders of most other residential developments could delay construction until the market recovered and buyers returned.
"But with the project tied in to the Commonwealth Games, irrespective of sales to customers, we still had to build it.
“The project was always, right from the beginning, on a very tight timeline.
"That is, I guess, why most of the other bidders did not go forward for it.”
Interest in the 1,168 apartments, which will be sold after the Commonwealth Games and range in prices from £225,000 to £600,000, has began to increase again, claimed Malhorta, and Emaar MGF now has only 140 left to sell.
The apartments location are among the most desired in India, just across the Yamuna River from Delhi’s central business district, with fields and open countryside to one side, the elaborately carved new Akshardham temple on the other, and its own station on the Delhi Metro.
Emaar MGF should now avoid the harsh financial penalties written into the contract for missing the deadline, but it will not likely be able to claim the financial incentives offered for early delivery.
Malhotra's main priority, however, is just crossing the finishing on time.
He said: “We will of course try our best to meet the deadline, which is very, very tight, very aggressive.
"So far we are on track.
"Right now, I cannot predict.”
September 2009: Commonwealth Games Village hit by mosquitoe outbreak
August 2009: Court ruling gives Commonwealth Games Village a big boost
July 2009: Delhi court lifts restrictions on building Village
July 2009: Row over Commonwealth Games Village continues
December 2008: Legal challenge over 2010 Commonwealth Games cleared