Tuesday, August 26, 2008


Only a few millimetres of rain are enough to wash off the top layer of any road — even arterial — in Bangalore. Potholes are filled with sand and rubble in patchwork measures. And motorists are left coursing through a perilous jungle safari in India’s Silicon City. In a three-part series beginning today, S Kushala, R Krishnakumar and Aarthi R find out why our roads crumble too often

Bangalore: “This is a curse for having decided to live on this road. We settled down here to rest in our old age but Rest House Road is becoming a virtual hell. Out BP rises due to the honking of vehicles, can’t walk on the road without tripping. When it rains, God save us. The manholes open up and the flooded water stinks.’’
The Richard couple, in their 70s, who have been the residents of Rest House Road for 20 years now, don’t remember seeing a well-laid, asphalted stretch in the recent years. Being in the backyard of the commercial hub where the property prices are sky-rocketing, this small lane which is a thoroughfare connecting Residency Road, Church Street to MG Road has been an eyesore.
Bangalore roads never had a good reputation. Our roads have always carried the taglines — bad, deplorable, sorry and beyond repairs. The city which has seen a vast development in terms of infrastructure to the magnitude of flyovers, underpasses, international airport and now, the mass rapid transport — Metro Rail — has not given its citizens good roads.
Get any Bangalorean’s take on the roads — “the first shower of the season will tell how good our roads are’’ is the standard one you will get. The former Lok Ayukta, who was bogged down by umpteen number of complaints about bad quality roads had to say this after examination - “scrape off a chunk of a newly laid road to test the thickness, which of course was nowhere close to the prescribed standards.’’
What ails the city roads? Civic authorities’ apathy and blame-game. Contractors-engineers nexus with high “cuts’’. Lack of monitoring system and poor enforcement of rules specified.
The fifth main road, Chamrajpet, is an ideal example of the authorities’ bickering. The water leakage here is perennial and that stretch of road never gets repaired. The BBMP says - “ask the BWSSB to first set right the leakage otherwise, even if the road is asphalted daily, it does not last.’’ The BWSSB counters - “Water leakage is just a reason. It is not our problem.’’
Water is said to be the road’s worst enemy and rainfall is the biggest bane for this city. Water from the flooded roads takes a long time to recede - a classic gradient problem. The roads which have to have a gradient for the water to move along the shoulder drains, have flat surfaces. Also, the mouth of the shoulder drains is not cleaned regularly and flooded water does not have a way to flow through.
A basic road, be it arterial or sub-arterial, should last for about 3 years on which Rs 35 lakh is spent per km. But how can the quality be maintained if there is a 20% to 25% “cut’’ at various levels? It’s an open secret that no file moves without “palm greasing’’ in the government offices and higher the investment, higher the moolah. Money has to be shelled out at three levels for a contractor to get the project approved — for technical sanctions, tender approvals and administrative approval. The “cut’’ is passed on right from the ward level engineer to the higher-up in the engineering department. When the elected body is in place, the corporators also get their commissions. The question is, when a work has to be done with Rs 1 lakh and Rs 25,000 goes away unaccounted for, how can 100% of the project with quality assurance be carried out?


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