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Mumbai’s pothole horror: Fix the system for better roads

Roads need to be dug up for citizens to get essential services such as power and water, but the BMC must take a closer look at how they are fixed again.

mumbai Updated: Aug 02, 2018 11:30 IST
Eeshanpriya MS
Eeshanpriya MS
Hindustan Times
Mumbai,Mumbai roads,bad roads in Mumbai
Utility work commonly causes traffic jams in different parts of the city throughout the year. (HT File Photo)

Citizens need power, drinking water and high-speed internet lines; these must be laid underground; but do roads need to be ruined beyond repair every time?

Urban planning experts say better governance and monitoring by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC), and innovative solutions will ensure your roads are not always in a state of disrepair, and full of potholes.

How exactly does trenching affect your road?

The agencies that dig up the road to lay or repair cables are required to repair the road too. However, civic officials said their quality of repair rarely matches that of the original road. The trenches are often filled up haphazardly,which makes them prone to damage.

How can the BMC prevent this?

“We have to accept that trenching is necessary to lay utility cables,” said Pankaj Joshi, director, Urban Design Research Institute (UDRI), but added that there were ways to keep the roads smooth.

“The BMC needs to construct more ducts to lay cables. While this is being done in some areas, we do not know if the installed ducts are being used at all.”

Joshi is referring to the concrete cavities that run along the road and hold multiple cables. So, when an agency wants to repair or lay a new cable, all it needs to do is open the duct and access the utility passage, leaving the road untouched.

Another solution is to lay all utility cables on a stretch together, when the road is being repaired, said retired BMC official Nandkumar Salvi.

“The problem is, the agencies apply to lay cables at different times of the year, which means even a repaired road gets dug up,” Salvi said. “This not only damages the road, but also increases the chances of a new cable damaging an existing one. Again, the road will be dug up for repair.”

Even better, cables can be laid under footpaths wherever possible, Salvi pointed out. This can be done when existing roads are widened.

“In the suburbs, cables are already under footpaths, but in many places, the BMC widens the roads by including a portion of the footpath into the carriageway. In such cases, the cables can be shifted right away.” This solution, however, cannot apply to storm water drains or drinking water pipes as it may hamper connectivity.

Apart from the technical solutions, the experts said better coordination within the BMC would also keep your roads smooth, as some utility agencies, such as the ones supplying electricity and water, are part of the civic body.

The BMC’s hydraulics and storm water drains departments also lay utility cables, but they do not coordinate with the road department to align their work with road repair, Salvi said.

“These departments need to have their plans ready two years in advance, so they can be approved, and tenders can be floated, in time to align them with road repair work.”

Municipal Commissioner Ajoy Mehta said the BMC has been looking at technology that will minimise the damage to roads.

“BMC will adopt trench-less technology, which is not very expensive,” he said. Trench-less technology is where an entire stretch need not be dug up to lay utility. Instead, a small portion can be dug up for the cable to enter the ground, and it will be pulled up on the other side of the road.

Mehta also said the BMC had decided to increase the penalties on companies that do not submit their annual utility plans before September.

The BMC drafts its road repair plans in October.

WHAT’S BENEATH THE SURFACE?
There maybe more than what meets the eye when it comes to bad roads. Here’s a look at what goes on below our roads:

First Published: Aug 02, 2018 11:29 IST