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Can’t promise complete absence, but definitely less potholes this monsoon, says BMC

While most roads look good now, experts say city may be in for a rough ride after first showers.

mumbai Updated: Jun 05, 2019 13:46 IST
Steffy Thevar
Steffy Thevar
Hindustan Times, Mumbai
BMC,monsoon in mumbai,monsoon preparation by BMC
An open trench near Michael High School on LBS Road, Kurla in Mumbai, on Tuesday, May 28, 2019. Even as the monsoon is likely to arrive in Mumbai by the second week of June, the BMC is still struggling to close trenches and finish road works.(Aalok Soni/HT Photo)

Is Mumbai ready for this year’s monsoon? Has the civic body completed desilting of drains, tree-trimming and fixing roads? Will ongoing infra work add to waterlogging? In a five-part series, HT’s panel of experts will tell you what they found and what to expect.

Even as the monsoon is likely to arrive in Mumbai by the second week of June, the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) is still struggling to close trenches and finish road works. While most roads look good enough now, experts say that after the first few showers, the city may be in for a rough ride as the civic body is yet to complete spillover and current work.

Usually, the BMC repairs roads from October 1 to May 31 — the non-monsoon period. This year, however, the Metro work and shutting down of dilapidated bridges across the city is likely to cause more traffic jams. In 2019, the civic body also took over works for 725 roads and 18 junctions. In addition, spillover work from last year for almost 635 roads was also undertaken. Until the first week of May, the civic body could complete only 45% of work.

The BMC has a list of reasons as to why potholes occur every monsoon. Additional municipal commissioner Vijay Singhal, who heads the roads department, said, “It can also be noticed that the number of potholes has been decreasing consistently. Improper filling of trenches and sometimes emergency works, like pipe bursts and repairing of drains come up. In such a situation, we have to provide permission for trenching even on newly made concrete roads. Those permissions cannot be avoided. We are concretising major roads and now as per our new policy, we also have concrete slab footpaths.”

According to Singhal, it cannot be said that potholes will not occur this monsoon. “We cannot promise there would be no potholes this monsoon, however, the numbers would definitely be less. We are working on it.” However, experts said these potholes are a result of the substandard material used or the improper curing — the process that controls the loss of moisture from roads.

Vivek Pai, Mumbai Mobility Forum, said, “The contractor hired by the BMC does not let enough time for the material to cure, which is why cracks develop, which further widen during summer and then in monsoon, water seeps in. So even if the road is newly concretised, it is bound to be damaged because enough care was not taken.” Lack of co-ordination between departments, which lead to unplanned trenching, is also a major cause to why even good roads often end up damaged. Although the BMC may state that the number of potholes has gone down, these numbers often contradict the ground reality. Following the backlash over the number of potholes counted officially, in 2017, the civic body officially stopped the counting of potholes, but only gave out the number of complaints received.

Barricading at under-construction Shitladevi Metro station, Mahim. This year, the Metro work and shutting down of dilapidated bridges across the city is likely to cause more traffic jams. ( Aalok Soni/HT Photo )

The civic body will use cold-mix produced by its asphalt plant at Worli and has set a target of distributing more than 1,200 tonnes of cold-mix to all its 24 wards. This mix will be used for the roads under the BMC and which do not fall under the Defect Liability period (DLP). DLP is the time period when contractors who build the road are liable for responsibility in case of any damage to the roads. Until last year, the civic body was using imported cold mix from Austria and Israel, which got mixed responses. While the administration insists on using cold mix, councillors from various parties during a standing meeting said that ward-level staff is not trained enough to use the cold mix to fill in the potholes.

A senior official from the roads department said, “The proper process to fill in the potholes is first to dig it into a block and then scrap off the debris from the pothole. The cold mix need not settle or be given time to rest, but can be flattened using a roller. However, the process is not followed every time and every ward in BMC may not have rollers to cater to every pothole.”

While the BMC administration has been insisting on using cold mix over hot mix, the result has not been at par. In 2018, when the civic body used this cold mix, there were 2,089 pothole-related complaints recorded within the first month of monsoon. The use of cold mix has also increased as compared to last year. While in 2018, the wards used 813 tonnes of cold mix, this monsoon the civic body has set a target of producing 1,200 tonnes of cold mix, of which 928 tonnes have already been distributed to the wards.

This is despite a 25% increase in budget allocation for road works in the 2019-20 budgets as compared to the 2018-19 budget. The BMC also set aside Rs 15.86 crore for cold-mix production.

BMC departmental work on concrete Andheri Kurla Road near Chakala metro station in Mumbai, May 28, 2019. ( Aalok Soni/HT Photo )

Complaint Mechanisms

Over the years, the civic body has introduced multiple complaint mechanisms for citizens to report bad roads or potholes, of which only a few are still in place. The MCGM 24x7 app which provides various facilities also allows citizens to take pictures of potholes and tag the location. This message would then be forwarded to the respective ward for further action. A senior official from the roads department said, “The BMC is now working to update the status of the complaint on the app too so that the public is aware that their complaints are being looked into.”

In 2018, the civic body also released 24 contact numbers, one for each of the 24 wards wherein people can send photos and location of the potholes directly to the ward officer concerned. However, after much outcry over engineers complaining about excess data loss and complaints at night, this system was kept on hold. The BMC also lets the citizens register all disaster-related calls on its toll-free number 1916. During monsoon, pothole-related complaints are also lodged with the disaster-management room.

Black Spots

During monsoon, slippery roads and potholes can also cause accidents. In order to specifically target such spots, the BMC along with the Mumbai traffic department had listed 21 such spots across the city in 2018. This year, the number has gone down to 18, of which most are in the eastern suburbs and city.

However, senior civic officials from the roads departments said the reduced number does not mean that the earlier black spots have been treated. The list is always upgraded. A senior officer from the traffic department said, “We get this list from the traffic department if there are multiple accidents on any spot. The deadline for permanent measures on these spots is October 31 this year. However, we have taken all the temporary measurements as recommended by the road department.

There are 10 black spots in the island city. In the eastern suburbs, there are six black spots. There are only two such spot sin the western suburbs,

In 2017, the BMC released a list of 39 roads in the city, which belong to different agencies governing the city. These 39 roads belong to eight government agencies — namely MSRDA, MMRDA, SRA, Aarey, PWD, BPT, MHADA and Airport Authority. These 39 roads amount to about 126km in length. The civic body by releasing the list also tried to wash off hands from any damage on these roads and also informed these agencies to take care of the roads in their respective jurisdictions.

While most major roads in the city under BMC are undergoing widening work or concretisation, the Western Express Highway under Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority (MMRDA) is also going through rapid Metro construction work. To take care of monsoon-related problems, the MMRDA has appointed a team of 75 for the five Metro corridors being implemented in the city. Along with the team of 75 engineers, 150 labourers and 30 high-capacity dewatering pumps will be deployed.

First Published: Jun 05, 2019 13:46 IST