BMC spent at least ₹1K-crore on Mumbai roads annually in past 10 years
While there has been uproar over the poor quality of roads in Mumbai with potholes mushrooming across the city, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) spends at least ₹1,000 crore annually on the road department that is involved in the construction, repair and maintenance of the city’s 2,000-km road network, civic body data has revealed. Moreover, the expenditure has doubled in the past 10 years. BMC has spent over ₹15,000 crore on the road department in the past nine financial years or two election terms, according to the data.
BMC claims that in the current fiscal, the expenditure on road works will be around ₹2,000 crore. It has maintained that the current works of converting all major roads into cement and concrete is the ultimate solution to have good quality of roads and will result in resolving problems relating to potholes.
According to the data, the expenditure on roads has significantly increased from 2012-13. The data stated that BMC’s expenditure rose dramatically in the 2012-2017 election term, as compared to the past two election terms between 2002 and 2012. As per the data, ₹1,002 crore was spent between 2002 and 2007 by BMC on construction and repair-maintenance of roads in the city, which increased to ₹3,992 crore between 2007 and 2012.
However, after this, the expenditure has significantly increased. Between 2012 and 2017, BMC spent ₹8,305 crore – double the money spent in the previous five years. Further, between 2017 and January 2021, BMC had spent over ₹7,298 crore on the roads department. This indicates that the expenditure in the ongoing election term that will end in March is expected to be more than that of the previous term of 2012-17. However, BMC’s above data is considering the financial year.
This does not include the western and eastern express highways as they are maintained by the Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA). There are several other agencies, including the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation (MSRDC) that maintains several flyovers, Mumbai Port Trust, that maintaining the city roads.
In 2015, ₹350-crore road scam was discovered in BMC in which 38 people – 22 site engineers and 16 third-party quality auditors – were held responsible. The civic body ordered a probe into repairs of 34 roads, after then mayor Snehal Ambekar wrote to former municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta about the inferior quality and corruption. The inquiry found that the contractors had not used the amount of material needed to build or repair the roads, thus reducing its thickness and pocketing the remaining amount.
But despite the above expenditure and the road scam resulting in scrutiny, BMC remains at the receiving end over potholes every year during monsoon.
Borivli resident Viraj Mamania said, “Every year during monsoon, we have potholes despite crores of rupees being spent by BMC. Since the past two years, several roads in my area, which were earlier smooth, have developed potholes. In the name of Covid-19 duty, there is no quick response to the potholes. We have to do continuous follow-ups to ensure the potholes are fixed.”
Mulund resident Nishit Modi, “Everywhere in the city, be it LBS Road, SV Road and Linking Road, there are potholes. The reason for this is the ongoing Metro construction work. But how long can we take this? The Metro work has been going on for over the past three years and will go on for 3 more years. So is BMC expecting citizens to travel on potholes for six years while it continues to spend crores of rupees on road maintenance?”
Meanwhile, BMC has said that the quality of roads will undergo a major transformation in the next seven-eight years. Additional municipal commissioner P Velrasu said, “Asphalt and bitumen are not going to help when it comes to road surface in the city. The vehicle load and rainfall pattern both have contributed in degrading road quality, resulting in potholes. Hence, our policy decision to have cement and concrete roads is the ultimate answer to give Mumbai better roads.” Velrasu added, “The current ratio of cement and concrete roads in the city out of total 2,000 km roads under BMC is around 25-30% and we plan to take it up to around 80%. This change will come in around seven-eight years and it will be a major solution to potholes. We can do it faster but we have to ensure our capacity and quality of roads.”
Dhawal Ashar, head of Urban Transport and Road Safety at World Resources Institute (WRI), said, “Concrete roads could largely address the problem of potholes in the city. However, it is critical to carefully design each element of our street. Concrete pavements are rigid. Once we make them, it will be hard to turn back. Ultimately, the true experience of a city is in its detail. People-friendly streets are safe, accessible and beautiful. There is undeniable evidence that designing for pedestrians will not just improve safety but also increase traffic efficiency.”