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Red tape killing roads

City’s roads need repair but approvals and money take a long time to come from the government. Atul Mathur reports.

delhi Updated: Aug 25, 2008 00:28 IST
Atul Mathur

Have you ever wondered why many of the Delhi roads continue to have potholes for so many years? Why some roads are re-laid frequently and some remain neglected for years together?

Reason is simple: The Public Works department (PWD) has categorised its roads as “important” and “secondary”. And funds are always a problem for secondary roads.

“Important roads like Ring Road and Outer Ring Road and some other stretches are maintained on priority and sometimes at the cost of other roads,” a senior PWD engineer said on condition of anonymity.

Take, for example, J.D. Birla Road, which connects Mathura Road with Kalindi Kunj. It was last resurfaced in 2003. Resurfacing of this 3.5-kilometre-stretch was again due in 2007. PWD engineers say they have already moved the proposal but necessary approvals have not arrived yet.

“It generally takes 1-2 years to get the approvals and money for resurfacing of roads,” a PWD engineer said.

UP Link Road in east Delhi, which connects National Highway 24 with Noida, was last carpeted in 2002. Big potholes on this stretch speak volumes about the neglect from the road owning agency.

Ghazipur Road, another important road in East Delhi that takes you to Noida via Ghazipur Dairy Farm, Kondli and Dallupura from NH24, is full of potholes and poor drainage has worsened the situation. This road was also carpeted in 2001-02. Its resurfacing is also overdue for almost two years.

“We don’t get enough money for maintenance of roads. We have now made a comprehensive proposal for resurfacing of various roads along with the improvement of drainage system in east Delhi. It will cost about Rs 13 crore,” said a PWD engineer.

The situation is similar in northwest Delhi. In Rohini, road improvement has never been taken up ever since they were handed over to the PWD by the Delhi Development Authority, in 1997-98.

“Strengthening of Road No. 42 A, which connects Madhuban Chowk with Rithala, and various other sector roads, which are being maintained by PWD, is long overdue,” a PWD engineer confirms.

Engineers say they have moved files and awaiting approvals.

In run up to Commonwealth Games, the Delhi Government focussed on the construction of flyovers but failed to maintain its existing road infrastructure.

Resurfacing or relaying of most Public Works Department (PWD) roads, other than some “important” roads like Ring Road and outer Ring Road, is long overdue.

According to PWD engineers, roads require resurfacing every four to five years. However, they need to be maintained regularly to last their full life. PWD engineers say they never have enough budgets for proper maintenance of roads.

“Ideally, one-fifth of the roads should be resurfaced every year but due to ongoing construction on various stretches it does not happen. Sometimes, resurfacing is not done even for seven years,” said KK Mutreja, a former PWD chief engineer.

PWD’s annual budget of about Rs 85 crore for maintenance includes maintenance of buildings, hospitals and schools too along with roads and flyovers. Sources said only 20 per cent of the maintenance budget is meant for the repair and maintenance of roads and is largely used for “continuous maintenance and upgradation like widening” of “important” roads.

Though the agency gets separate funds for resurfacing and re-strengthening of roads, the approvals sometimes take up to two years. In the absence of proper maintenance and increasing traffic, roads start crumbling.

According to Mutreja, the agency never focussed on pure maintenance of roads. “Upgradation of roads like their widening and adding on is a continuous process in the PWD. Whenever some inadequacy is found in some roads, upgradation work is started. That’s why there is always inadequate funds for pure maintenance of roads,” said Mutreja.

Delhi PWD Minister Rajkumar Chauhan said improvement of roads is definitely in their priority list. “We are drawing up a comprehensive plan to improve all PWD roads before Commonwealth Games in 2010. The resurfacing work of all roads will start soon,” Chauhan added.

“It is because of excessive rains and water-logging that condition of roads has deteriorated this year,” the minister said.