Sunday, October 28, 2007

‘It is wrong to single out BBMP, we need money’

‘It is wrong to single out BBMP, we need money’

In an interview with R Jayaprakash, BBMP commissioner S Subramanya admits they don’t have the kind of money to give Bangaloreans pothole-free roads. Excerpts:
Roads in Bangalore are pathetic and it is the same story every monsoon.
There’s a major problem with roads here; they are simply not designed to carry this kind of traffic load. The city’s total road length is about 7,000 km and to make it pothole-free, resurfacing has to be done at least once in three years. The cost involved to resurface 1 km is Rs 30 lakh, translating to around Rs 800 crore every year. But we spend just Rs 50 crore because a majority of capital investments goes for new roads. Since we don't have this kind of money, resurfacing is done once in five years. I went to Kolkata on Friday and saw potholes there too. Interestingly, there are only 6 lakh vehicles in that city as against a population of 80 lakh, while in Bangalore, it’s 30 lakh vehicles against a 66-lakh population. All these factors have to be taken into consideration and it is wrong to single out BBMP.
(Misra’s suggestion: Do we need to resurface all the roads every year? Why not ensure a few but good-quality roads every year which will last for many years?)
What about quality control and monitoring? Who is responsible for the shoddy work?
The BBMP had an evaluation division but it wasn’t competent enough to do its job. Right now, we have third-party inspection and a technical audit wing for evaluation. Only after that will the project management agency receive money for the work done. We have to zero in on the problem — that is insufficient funds hamper quality of work. We throw peanuts and we get monkeys. And it is not that we don’t monitor work. A classic case is the termination of contract for KMRP roads. A contractor was responsible for shoddy work on Magadi Road and New BEL Road. We have to issue three notices before terminating the contract and we have initiated this.
The 19 IT/BT roads have survived the rain fury, why not other roads?
One should understand that all IT/BT roads are 50 years old. These have undergone tens of resurfacing and maintenance work. And the cost involved for each km is a whopping Rs 1 crore. Further, all these stretches had footpaths and storm water drains in place before the project was taken up.
(Misra’s suggestion: The cost was high because complete drain work and concrete footpath work were also done. But is it not a good idea to spend more money and build roads which last for years rather than doing shoddy work every year?)
What is the permanent solution then?
Improving quality of work. The BBMP needs money for this and we are exploring all options. Pumping in more funds, monitoring work — these can ensure quality roads.
What is the action plan to tackle bad roads?
I have allocated Rs 220 crore for resurfacing and pothole-filling. We have already started the exercise for arterial roads. In new areas, we have identified some main roads that are in bad shape and will begin work immediately.
(Misra’s suggestion: Should we not include shoulder drains and tertiary drain-cleaning work as part of this package? Otherwise all this money will get washed away with the next shower.)


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