Potholes on city roads are punching holes in the ambitious MCD project of using mechanical sweepers to clean Delhi streets.
Officials said that the mechanical sweepers, which were as big as mini-trucks, were not able to scoop dirt out of potholes. This was why roads looked dirty, even after these machines had been used on them.
The civic agency has now decided to hire smaller sweepers - to be as big as autorickshaws - in place of their bigger counterparts.
The big mechanical sweepers - 14 have been hired so far - are still undergoing test runs.
Three private contractors, who have been engaged for seven years, have imported these machines from Germany. Each contractor will be paid between Rs 907 and Rs 1,124 per kilometre of the road cleaned. The cost of each sweeper is nearly Rs 70 lakh.
The MCD, however, has not made any payments yet. Yogender Singh Mann, director (press and information) MCD, said that "only after the sweepers are put to affective use will the MCD pay the companies".
As the big mechanical sweepers are suitable only for roads wider than 60 metres, smaller ones will be used for smaller colony roads that are still cleaned manually.
"Now that the Delhi government has taken over smaller roads, MCD will have to get mechanical sweepers they can reach them. They will have all the facilities of the bigger sweepers," said an official.
The bigger mechanical sweepers are still failing their test runs in the city, even on the wider roads.
According to a senior official, due to potholes, the machines leave behind a trail of dust on both sides, which a sanitation worker has to clean up.
The sweepers were inaugurated on September 29, 2011 and were supposed to clean 900 kilometres of road daily. Currently, however, only some roads - mainly the Ring Road - is being cleaned using the machines.
An official of MCD said that most machines were lying idle, as the roads identified for mechanical sweeping were not in proper condition.
"MCD had earlier identified 900 kilometres on which the sweepers were to be used. The stretches were identified before the Commonwealth Games in 2010, but many of them have since been damaged due to normal wear and tear. Mechanical sweepers cannot perform on damaged roads," he said.