Crores spent, but still no clear policy on roads

Crores of money down the drain. Asphalt being replaced by paver blocks, then replaced by asphalt all over again. Crores more spent on roads that remain a mess.
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Updated on Jul 24, 2011 01:47 AM IST
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Hindustan Times | ByKunal Purohit, Mumbai

Crores of money down the drain. Asphalt being replaced by paver blocks, then replaced by asphalt all over again. Crores more spent on roads that remain a mess.

If it seems like a muddle, that’s because it is one. And the underlying cause of the mess: Your municipal corporation has no clear policy on how your roads should be built.

On Saturday, Hindustan Times reported, as part of its ongoing campaign, that the BMC has spent Rs 5,000 crore on the city’s roads over the past five years. You responded with horror.

Well, here’s another shocker: The BMC now plans to spend another Rs 900 crore of your tax money on more road work, over the next 10 months. Given that there is still no clear policy on building roads, chances are, at the end of that period, you will be facing another nightmarish monsoon of bad roads.

Here’s an example of the flip-flops causing this cycle of wasted money and endless repairs: After laying paver blocks on roads for about seven years, the BMC has decided to ‘minimise’ their use and return to asphalt, even though just a few years ago, the BMC said asphalt roads were more prone to potholes and it was therefore shifting to paver blocks.

“Such a change was necessary because we found that contractors were indiscriminately using paver blocks. Instead, we have now laid more emphasis on better quality asphalt,” said civic standing committee chairman Rahul Shewale.

“Many of the roads that will now be asphalted had earlier been laid with paver blocks,” a senior municipal official admitted, not wishing to be named. “However, since that did not work out well, they will now have to be re-laid with asphalt.”

Experts say such flip-flops are a dangerous practice. “The Standing Technical Advisory Committee [STAC] on roads has specific guidelines on the use of asphalt and paver blocks, but the BMC paid no attention to them and went ahead with paver blocks on main roads,” said retired chief municipal engineer Nandkumar Salvi.

STAC chairman NV Merani confirmed that such spending was a waste. “What is the use of spending so much? Every year, the BMC spends huge sums of money, but its useless because the road work is not done the right way,” Merani said.

“Such expenditure will only benefit contractors and vested interests.”

Additional municipal commissioner Aseem Gupta did not respond to repeated calls and SMSes.

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