In 2012, Municipal Corporation of Delhi was trifurcated and roads less than 60 feet were transferred to the three new corporations. It was then believed that this will improve the functioning of local bodies.
The decentralization, however, made no difference to the condition of roads in the Capital. From south Delhi’s Vasant Kunj and Sarita Vihar to east Delhi’s Khichripur and Trilokpuri or north Delhi’s Swaroop Nagar, the neighbourhood roads are still in a mess.
Multiplicity of agencies, unscientific approach in road repair and poor drainage has lead to several roads being left with potholes and cracks.
MULTIPLICITY OF AGENCIES
In 2016 the Delhi government’s Jal Board decided to repair the pipelines in Kalkaji, which comes under SDMC. The roads were dug up and then left unattended for months. Residents had to struggle through potholed colony lanes for months with none of the agencies taking up the responsibility for it.
This was not an isolated case. Walk into any Delhi locality and the story is more or less the same. People complain that one government agency constructs the road while other breaks it to lay underground wires or pipelines.
A senior official of the South corporation said that it is mandatory for government and private agencies to deposit a fixed sum before they take up construction. But in many cases they either dig more than the permissible limit or leave it unattended.
“There are times when roads have to be urgently dug up. For instance, if there is a water supply issue, the Jal Board may have to dig up the pipelines. In such a case, we cannot wait for the formalities. But as a result, they do not do the repair work and we have to go to courts,” North corporation leader of House VP Pandey said.
Residents, also claim that private telecom companies too dig up the roads and leave them unattended as there is no check by corporation. East Delhi’s Krishnsa Nagar is one sucj example. President of East Delhi RWA Joint Front BS Vohra says roads were dug up in Krishna Nagar by telecom companies to lay underground cables and were not repaired for months.
Involvement of too many agencies also results in confusion over jurisdiction. The PWD, corporations and DDA often blame each other for repair and construction. Residents say that several roads lie neglected as BJP-ruled corporations and Delhi government’s PWD pass the buck. For instance, it took more than three years for Vasant Kunj residents to figure out who is responsible for the maintenance of a Master Plan road.
“Multiplicity of agencies benefits civic bodies as they can pass the buck. The Unified Traffic And Transportation Infrastructure (Planning and Engineering) Centre (Uttipec) was formed so that it will intervene in matters of multiplicity of agencies and work as a watchdog. But that never happened,” said S Velmurugan, principal scientist, CRRI.
The BJP-led East and North corporations blame the Delhi government for not giving enough funds to them for developmental work.
“The corporators are dependent on Rs 2-3 crores which they get as funds. Around 50 per cent of this is spent on road repairs. The corporation earlier took loans from the Delhi government but since 2013 we have been asked to pay 11.5% interest for it. This is not feasible as we are already reeling under financial crisis.”
A total of Rs 920 lakh was allocated in the budget for repair of roads near Gazipur dairy. However, the promised funds could not be disbursed and the work never got underway. Another road work of Rs 110 lakh from Ganesh Nagar to Dhobi Ghat was also not executed in East Delhi due to fund crisis.
The BJP-ruled corporations had promised to convert bituminous roads into cement concrete roads. However, over 60% roads in all the corporations are still being made using bituminous due to ‘fund crunch’.
Experts says the city’s poor drainage system damages roads massively. A sub-standard road with a good drainage system will last longer than a good road with improper drainage in the area, said SM Sarin, former director scientist at Central Road Research Institute (CRRI).
Clogged drains lead to spillage onto roads weakening and corroding them “Several areas in our locality comes under mixed land use and traders throw plastics or left over foods in the drains. This leads to leakage and roads being broken,” said resident welfare association president of Lajpat Nagar, Pawan Arora. “The corporation says drainage comes under PWD or Jal Board while road repair their job,” he added.
Checks and balances
As per the rules, a road made using Bituminous cannot be constructed again before five years and of ready mix concrete before 10 years. If there is damage before this period, it has to be repaired by contractors free of cost. However, the nexus between the contractors and corporators leads to the roads lying with potholes, said an official from North Corporation.
“There is need for an external body that looks upon the quality issues for greater transparency rather than the quality control department of corporations judging it,” said Sarin.
The condition of roads is comparatively better in South Delhi — the richest municipal corporation — while in several residential pockets of North and East, the roads are damaged and have not been repaired for years.
In some areas, repair works were taken just before the elections. “More than 12 damaged neighbourhood roads were repaired just before the elections. For the remaining time of the year we had to live with the potholes,” said Narender Goswami, resident of Mayur Vihar, Phase 1.