With the authorities unmoved by the jerks caused to motorists, sometimes the citizens have to take it upon themselves to do the patch-up work on potholed roads. It’s a perennial problem which aggravates during monsoons. TOI Debate panellists do the digging to get to the root of the problem and discuss the restoration process
Nagpur: The debate takes a cue from ongoing argument on quality of cement roads vs tar roads. From the technical point of view, Udit Jain, an assistant professor at VNIT, said cement concrete roads are better than tar roads when it comes to longevity. “Already cement roads have come up in various places in the city. If designed properly, these roads can be pothole-free,” he said.
And for making tar roads pothole-free, Jain said a high quality of workmanship is required.
Sharing his experience of driving a bike on city’s roads, Khushroo Poacha, a government employee who is also an avid cyclist, said it has been very bad. “I am suffering from acute back pain due to driving on city roads. As far as cycling is concerned, I mostly do it outside the city because the highways are in much better shape. But once while cycling in the city, the tyre burst and replacement cost me Rs5,000,” he said.
Darshan Maheshwari, a businessman, stresses that the problem increases exponentially during monsoon. “The beneficiaries are the road contractors and authorities who earn commission,” he said and added roads are usually not constructed or repaired before the monsoon “as then the quality will be exposed.”
Piyush Janbandhu, another businessman, observed bad roads are an issue throughout the year but during monsoon rainwater doesn’t drain out from the roads due to wrong alignment of the construction with footpath.
Salim Ibrahim, a wildlife enthusiast who has stayed in various countries, said though potholes are everywhere, including developed countries, “the problem here is the bad road designs and complete disregard for safety norms.” “A sporadic pothole is not big a concern, but we need to be particular about designs and rules. The best way is to penalize erring people,” he said.
Vehicles, too, take a hit on bad roads. “Components like shock absorbers, suspension and tyres are damaged due to driving on potholed roads. It is a big financial burden,” said Shahrukh Cassad, a businessman.
Sharing inputs about road designing, Jain said the number of axles (truck axles) that would be coming on the road is considered. “Based on the axle count and the load they would be bearing, we design the roads. Problem arises when there is more load on the road than what was estimated,” he said.
Pointing out a problem with road planning, Jain gave example of Bajaj Nagar Square where the approach roads from all four sides are at a higher level than the intersection. “As a result, vehicles have to go down and up at the intersection, leading to increased wear and tear. The intersection being at a lower level is also prone to waterlogging. This is the situation at many other intersections,” he said.
Jain stressed on having a mandatory third-party quality monitoring audit of all works.
Explaining how politics comes into play, Maheshwari said roads are usually repaired just prior to elections. “And I can challenge that these roads do not last even their first monsoon,” he said. Giving example of road in front of Dhantoli garden, he said if NMC officials are saying there are only 600 potholes in the city, then this road alone has that many.
Poacha said our corporators are seen only near to the elections and roads are repaired only then. Citing example of Kingsway, he said the main road had many potholes as big as one foot wide, but the administration was least bothered. “Mark the potholes, put up a board mentioning the name of the contractor and engineer who supervised the work. Shame them on social media,” he suggested.
Shahrukh agreed with the idea and said that some standards need to be set for the quality of work, tar used etc based on the projected traffic movement. ‘There should be standardization by the authorities,” he said.
Janbandhu pointed out that there is no timeline to complete the road work. “Any site should have a board mentioning the timeline along with the lifespan,” he said.
Ibrahim gave example of United States where, he said, the authorities concerned are held accountable. “We are spending thousands of crores on road construction and in return what quality are we getting? Penalize those responsible for the poor quality of works,” he said.
Maheshwari recalled an incident in which, he said, the then agriculture minister Sharad Pawar suffered back pain after travelling from Nagpur to Amravati. “The road was completely re-laid soon thereafter. I would like to see civic officials drive on city roads on a 5-year-old two-wheeler for a week before making statements on potholes,” he said.
He said he would like to know the instances when the defect liability period clause was used and the road was re-laid.
The problem lies with the estimates for road construction, said Poacha. “It is calculated on the basis on the last estimate prepared for the work some years ago and with 10% increase. Then the contract is given to the lowest bidder. So, it is natural that the contractor will compromise with quality. The estimates should be prepared as per the prevailing market rates,” he said.
How do you quantify the damage caused to a vehicle due to bad roads? Shahrukh said bad roads are harmful for scooters, bikes and cars, in that order. “If the pothole hits a critical component, god help the vehicle owner. The whole vehicle body gets rattled and its lifespan decreases,” he said.
Many a time a newly laid road is again dug up for some utility work. Udit attributed this to the lack of coordination between different agencies. “Utility work needs to be done at the time of road construction itself,” he said.