Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj suggested that having a separate department for potholes with its own chief engineer would mitigate the problem.

 Will a potholes department fix Bengalurus battered roads Experts weigh inRepresentational image
news Civic Issues Friday, June 29, 2018 - 18:32

Potholes are here to stay, it seems. Especially in the monsoon, Bengaluru gets its fresh batch of killer potholes across the length and breadth of its roads. The potholes were there during former Bengaluru Development Minister KJ George’s tenure and they are here during Deputy Chief Minister Parameshwara’s tenure as well.

As of Friday morning, Dy CM Parameshwara said that out of the 8,000 potholes that had been counted by the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), 3,000 have been filled. On the other hand, Bengaluru Mayor Sampath Raj during Thursday’s BBMP council meeting suggested that potholes should be managed by a separate department with its own chief engineer to mitigate the problem.

But experts with which TNM spoke to feel that a separate department is not the fix for this problem.

MN Srihari, an independent traffic expert, who was appointed by the previous Siddaramaiah government as an advisor, feels it’s the laxity of BBMP engineers, who are responsible for this problem.

“If you are laying roads perfectly with proper material, potholes should not occur at all. Why is it that potholes are there only in Bengaluru and not as much in other cities? I have seen many places in India where there are no potholes. Building roads is not rocket science or any latest technology that is tough to master,” Srihari commented.

Recurrent rains in the city has been BBMP’s repeated excuse for the pothole riddled roads, but Srihari does not accept that. “Does it rain any less in Goa or Kochi?”

Arguing that the problem is largely not technical, as designs of the road, by and large, are “perfect”, Srihari says it is the nexus between corporator, contractors and the engineers which are the problem. He insists there should not be any potholes if quality material, good compaction (even distribution), and the right temperature for laying a road is followed.

“The contractors will act according to the corporation or engineers. Match fixing between the contractor and the engineers are common. It’s like 'you give 20% cut and do whatever you want to do',” he alleged.

Srihari is of the opinion that engineers should be held responsible by the BBMP because they are supposed to supervise and check the quality. Not only does the lax attitude of the engineer result in shoddy work, Srihari alleges there is misappropriation of the construction material itself in collusion with the officials.

He also alleged that the BBMP is not using readily available plastic to make the roads sturdier.

“Using plastic is advantageous due to flexibility. If you use plastic then you get longer durability. But all roads are not being laid with plastic although they are available in plenty,” he said.

Experts for long have advocated the use of plastics in building roads as it insulates the road from damage caused by water and also cuts down costs of tarring the road.

Another independent civil engineering expert, KV Dinesh say, “You may use the best material in the world but it's not going to solve the problem.”

He continued, “The problem is institutional. We don't want to solve problems permanently. The reason I say this is if you see any cross-section of road in Bengaluru, you will see water supply, sewerage pipes underneath the roads in a haphazard way. Nobody in the BBMP has a map for this which exactly says which utility is where. Sometimes we see manholes at the centre of the road. Many big pipes and cables causes cavities underneath the road. Unless the subgrade (layer under the road) is strong and aligned, roads will collapse.”

He said other than the quality of laying the roads, unplanned sewage or water connections below the roads are also factors for the longevity of the road.

“Not all contractors are guilty. Even if they are well-meaning, if the subgrade is not well compacted and there are activities (water, drainage), they will only collapse. If there is a hollow space underneath and water accumulates, it will crumble once the water dries out,” he explained.

The solution for all this he believes is to streamline all these underground utilities.  There is a need to map and then align them. However, he is less hopeful of this happening.

“There is a need for a unified municipal structure working across processes. The problem is there are different agencies of the government handling them which do not necessarily talk to each other. Even the BWSSB's water and sewerage departments do not talk to each other,” he pointed out.

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