Why the white-topping of roads in Bengaluru is riddled with problems

From flawed execution to a lack of safety precautions, the project is beset with several issues.
Why the white-topping of roads in Bengaluru is riddled with problems
Why the white-topping of roads in Bengaluru is riddled with problems
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The white-topping of roads in Bengaluru has created havoc by burdening citizens with escalating traffic and dust issues. The deadline for white-topping 94 km roads under phase 1, costing Rs 986.64 crore, lapsed in July, with only 15% of the work completed. Despite the pending work, the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has started floating tenders for concreting another 63.25km under phase 2. As a result, citizens will continue to endure traffic jams with no end in sight.

“I spend more than one hour while returning home from work because of the traffic congestion caused by white-topping. The traffic from main roads is diverted to smaller roads which get crowded. Every day, I have to find a new route to travel because all the roads that I usually take are closed for white-topping”, rues Hemanth Kumar.

Glitches in the procedure

According to V Ravichandran, urbanist and civic evangelist, the city is following a flawed method of white-topping roads, as cement is being poured wherever there is asphalt. “These asphalt roads were meagrely designed, with uneven motorist lane width, negligible footpath and poor drains”, he says. The normal thickness of asphalt is one-and-a-half inches or 40mm.

During white-topping of roads, only a part of the asphalt layer is being removed and replaced with cement blocks that are 5 inches thick. This is making the road level much higher than its previous height. “Ideally, they should have removed a layer below the asphalt called sub-grade.

The sub-grade needs to be surface-milled so that when concrete is laid, we achieve the similar height as before,” Ravichandran adds.

Since the cement blocks are thicker, they are covering the water drains laid out on the sides of the footpath. Also, the footpaths are at a lower level when compared to the elevated roads. “To fix the footpath issue, they have raised its level. But there is a blunder here, because houses and other establishments have been built in accordance with the old footpath height,” Ravichandran says. Thus, altering the height of footpaths leading to property entrances has caused a lot of inconvenience to especially the old people, who are unable to climb onto the raised footpaths.

In the process of white-topping, another important aspect that has been missed is the laying of new and easily accessible utility lines on the sides of the road. “Tomorrow, if any issues arise with the underground utility cables such as water and sewage pipes, the white-topping will have to be dug out. And it’s patching up is extremely problematic”, Ravichandran says.

Public money at stake

Srinivasa Allavali, an activist, like most citizens of Bengaluru thought that the white-topping initiative was a viable option to end the pothole issue in the city. But the pathetic execution of the project has made him doubtful about its end result. “No safety precautions have been taken during the construction of roads. Since the work is done patch by patch, many roads are left in a dangerous condition. I once saw some iron rods sticking out of the road”, he says. Also, the expert’s take on the faulty procedure in road construction has further dented Srinivas’s confidence in the project.

Many roads that are being white-topped are roads that were either recently tarred or were in perfect condition. Hence, the concreting of these roads is simply a waste of resources. “The decision of selecting the roads that require white-topping should be taken locally at the ward level rather than being approved by higher-level officials at the Vidhana Soudha. People in the ward are more aware of the condition of a particular road and whether or not it requires white-topping”, Srinivas says.

“The white-topped roads lack a sufficient utility duct. This shows that the government is not interested in building good roads. Rather, they are interested in making more money. And to create more bills, they are spoiling even those roads that are in good condition”, says MN Sreehari, civil engineer.

“We have spent so much public money on white-topping. In doing so, we have missed an opportunity to create uniform vehicle lanes, to widen footpaths and to clean up the entire road geometry. It’s a missed opportunity”, says V Ravichandran.

Project efficacy untested

BBMP claims that white-topping is the ultimate cure for the pothole menace, since concrete roads have a lifespan of around 30 years, unlike asphalt roads, which need to be tarred every three to four years. But without even testing its grand claims, the BBMP is going forward with white-topping road after road. “Let BBMP complete white-topping of a few roads and first examine its utility before converting more roads. They should wait for the rainy season and check whether these roads are actually free from potholes and are they able to absorb water and prevent waterlogging. Instead, the BBMP is spending more money and digging up more and more roads,” Srinivas says.

Some of the major roads that will be white-topped under phase 2 include areas in the Central Business District (CBD). And densely populated areas such as Jayanagar shopping complex and surrounding areas, East End Road, Koramangala, Wilson Garden, Gandhi Bazar, Madhavan Park to Hosur road stretch and many more will soon be blocked for white-topping. With the ongoing metro construction, the white-topping of roads has added to the traffic mess in Bengaluru causing distress to the citizens.

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