Pothole horror: Same old plotholes in Mumbai’s monsoon story

  • Chetna Yerunkar, Hindustan Times, Mumbai
  • Updated: Jul 13, 2016 12:36 IST
Until July 10,the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recorded 612 potholes . (Hindustan Times)

The next time the Mumbai civic body and state authorities promise that the problem of potholes will be a thing of the past, it will be better to take it with a pinch of salt.

Potholed roads and the consequent traffic snarls – always a major struggle for Mumbaiites – are likely to continue during this monsoon, despite the civic body’s claims to the contrary. A less than a month into the monsoon, more than 600 potholes have already been found on the roads and it is unlikely that the problem will be solved soon.

Until July 10,the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) recorded 612 potholes .

Experts and activists point out that the root cause of Mumbai’s pothole troubles is just the poor quality of roads. The recent inquiry into the road scam revealed irregularities in road works such as the substandard foundation of the roads.

Civic chief Ajoy Mehta, after the inquiry, said, “The inquiry report has revealed serious irregularities in the execution of road works. From the report, it is clear that all the 34 roads taken up for inspection have irregularities of a serious nature.”

According to experts, if the surfacing work on roads is not done properly, it leads to potholes. The use of paver blocks for filling potholes also leads to uneven roads, said experts.

However, there has been no concrete plan worked out by the civic and state authorities to correct the irregularities. As long as the construction does not improve, the problem of potholes will continue every monsoon, say experts.

NV Mirani, former standing technical advisory committee chairman, said, “The roads are not constructed to withstand heavy rainfall and traffic, owing to which potholes surface. The civic body should anticipate potholes on city roads and should take proper pre-monsoon remedial measures. As this is missing, the problems continue.”

No coordination

The pothole menace continues as there is no coordination between the various agencies maintaining roads and flyovers in the city, say experts.

Mumbai’s roads are built and maintained by the BMC as well as state government authorities such as the Public Works Department, the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC). Most of the roads in the city come under the jurisdiction of the BMC. Those include the two arterial roads connecting the suburbs to the island city—SV Road (western suburbs) and LBS Road (central suburbs). The PWD maintains the western express highway and the eastern express highway. The MMRDA maintains certain stretches where it undertakes infrastructure work while the MSRDC-appointed contractor looks after the maintenance of most flyovers in the city.

Besides repairing roads, the three agencies—the BMC, MMRDA and the MSRDC—keep undertaking infrastructure work across the city and do not work out a schedule together. The continuous digging of roads for fixing underground utilities and the inferior quality of work when repairing the roads has led to more trenches and potholes in the city.

Citizens said they had expected the civic body to come up with better planning. Nikhil Desai, a citizen activist from F north ward, said, “Nobody is serious about the pothole issue, neither the civic body nor the state government. The BMC as a rich body should have anticipated this problem after the road scam and should have made appropriate arrangements. The citizens should not be left to suffer.”

Substandard work

Not learning from its past experience, the sloppy work on the roads still continues. Recently, an officer from G north-ward pointed out that substandard material was used for filling potholes. The civic body has also not been following the standard operating procedure for fixing potholes, causing them to resurface. In some places, instead of using cold mix (tar), the potholes are being filled with paver blocks.

In an example of poor quality of road construction, the inquiry report stated: “Drain layer (sub-base layer) below the PQC (pavement quality concrete) layer (one of the top two layers used for constructing cement concrete roads) is not executed according to the BOQ (bill of quantity which is specified in the tender documents) and the quantity is less than 20 per cent to 100 per cent (from case to case).” On an average, 38 per cent of material is missing and in some places, it is as high as 100 per cent material missing, the report says.

The civic body has recorded 612 potholes and a majority of them lie in the western suburbs. The western suburb has recorded 213 potholes, whereas 197 were recorded in the eastern suburbs. The island city has recorded 202 potholes. L-ward (areas of Kurla and Chandivli) in the eastern suburbs has alone recorded 86 potholes, whereas S-ward (Bhandup) has recorded only 2 potholes. The civic body’s July 9 pothole status report stated that 507 potholes have been fixed.

A senior civic official said, “We did come up with tenders for repairing potholes, but we did not get any response. Whatever response we got was 50 % above the estimated price. The contractors will have to fill the potholes that recur, and will not be paid for it. We are coordinating with other agencies in case we receive complaints of potholes on their roads or flyovers.”

Ameet Satam, legislator from Andheri (West), said, “The civic officers are not working at the ground-level and even the number of potholes is not recorded properly. The report of the civic body says Andheri has more potholes than what was recorded. This means the pothole-reporting system is completely rigged.”

Sanjay Deshmukh, additional municipal commissioner, said, “The work of fixing the potholes is an ongoing process. We have been handling it according to procedure.”

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