– By K P BANEY

Root Cause of Bad Roads

Indian Economy is indeed booming. This is first time in history that shares market, bullion prices, and real estate; all are on the rising ladder. Govt. of Maharashtra is supporting IT sector by giving new Sops, including granting FSI 2, and host of other concessions. Declaring policy of 100 acres for housing schemes will encourage satellite towns, reducing pressure on Metro cities. Central Govt. has declared “Special Economic Zones (SEZs), again with host of concessions and tax holidays, to give boost to manufacturing units / industries. All these factors forecast Growth, Growth and Growth.

For proper growth, quality roads undoubtedly play very important role. Wise Chanakya wrote centuries back, that road surface has to be like back of Tortoise; meaning: Hard Surface, spacious/ adequate Camber and draining out water. What is lagging on roads is proper Camber, and therefore water does not drain out. Camber will allow water to flow towards edges of road from where it is drained out through storm-water drains. Stagnant or standing water on roads makes roads weak and vulnerable. Roads are also to be designed for todays, (and for coming 20 years) loads. Axel loads have considerably increased, and are still increasing. Volume of traffic has significantly increased, so have increased speed of vehicles. All new roads are to be designed to new specifications to withstand modern envisaged traffic. Old roads gradually need to be improved to new specifications.

Roads are a major infrastructural problem in Pune. Roads are not broad enough. Surfaces are not hard and smooth. Potholes are common sight. It becomes worse in monsoons, when water collects in these Potholes, which get bigger and bigger with flow of water. Materials used in laying carpet are not clean (lot of dust in aggregate), materials are not heated and maintained to required temperature, while laying carpet. PMC, under pressure from Bigwigs, and the Public, will fill up potholes in hurry; with whatever material (like Brick bats, moorum, mixed asphalt etc.) they can lay their hands on. When moorum is filled in pot-holes, it becomes slippery. Vehicles are damaged. More fuel is burnt. Considering repairs of roads including resurfacing, damage to vehicles, increased fuel consumption, time lost due to creeping slow traffic, injuries caused to two wheeler riders and senior citizen, it certainly is a colossal waste.

PMC may also resurface the roads. But will this solve our problem in long run, unless the basics are met with?

It is really shame, when water, even on normal shower, gets accumulated outside Engineering College, which is hardly 200 meters away from the river. Storm-Water drains are either not provided, or they get clogged, and therefore useless. We could provide open gutters/ channels on side of Footpaths, which could be easily cleaned. Storm water drains, if provided, should be of bigger diameter, to allow easy cleaning. Grill on top of Manholes should also be fixed with strong steel net of suitable size so as to prevent bigger particles getting in the net- work and clogging the drain.

Road dividers, constructed in bigger lengths also restrict free flow of water. Some small openings could easily be provided, at regular intervals, which will allow movement of water from one side to another. Gaps will also work as expansion joints for the divider wall.

Talks are going on to blacklist contractors. How can one blame contractors alone, when tendering process itself is faulty? Tenders are not invited on right specifications. Tenders do not specify basic rates of raw materials, on which contractor has to base his rates. In today’s uncertain market scenario, how can contractor quote properly? Alternatively, raw materials like Cement, Asphalt, pipes, metal and sand be issued to him on fixed rates. No guarantee is given to contractor, as to when he is getting his payments.

Why tender is always allotted to the contractor quoting lowest, very well knowing that the rates quoted by him are absurdly low, and therefore unworkable. Contractor, quoting low, can only earn when he steals on asphalt, cheats on quantity (or thickness) of materials, and is able to manage extra measurements over and above the work carried out by him. In all this, he has a partner, a supervising Engineer. Action therefore, if things really are to be improved, is to be taken on both.

As a fair practice, let Corporation out rightly reject highest tender and the lowest tender. Mean amount (Quotation) be found from rest of the tenders. And work awarded to the person, who is nearest to this mean amount. This process will remove unhealthy competition. Rates will be more workable. Technical Specifications and scope of work must be clearly specified in the tender. Tenders must be invited considering full (total) work, including laying drains, Electric and telephone cables, street lighting etc., and not in parts. Tenders must not be allotted on Political influence. Supervising Staff only collects Haftas. Let them also learn to take serious and sincere responsibility. Supervising staff must get equal punishment, if not more, than what is given to the Contractors. Stopping increment, or promotion or suspending him, are too light punishments. Something heavy, which acts as deterrent against bad workmanship, is required.

We construct roads, and surprisingly forget of maintenance. No budget has provided for maintenance. Maintenance does not mean only resurfacing of roads.

Subject of Roads could be divided into three parts:

  • Construction of designed roads and Quality Roads.
  • Repairs to damaged roads.
  • Preventive maintenance of roads.

Making sub-strata worthy of current traffic, and Providing Hard Surface, Camber, and Storm water drains (or road side Channels), is pre-requisite for good and healthy roads. Timely repairs, and regular preventive maintenance help increase life of roads. Without these, any amount of expenses incurred on roads will go waste.

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