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Mumbai's roads won't heal before rains

Alarmed by gloomy predictions that repair work on many of the city's dug up roads will not be completed by monsoons, MiD DAY decided to inspect some of the sites

In a city where pothole-riddled, monsoon-ravaged streets are an everyday reality, any proposal to re-lay, repair, or concretise them is sure to be welcomed with great enthusiasm and anticipation.

And a quick look at the city's scarred visage these days will tell you that the BMC is at work on them. But before you start envisioning those smooth commutes, here's some sobering news -- you may have to wait till long after the monsoons for your dream drive. Sources in the BMC have admitted that the work is unlikely to be completed in time for the deluge, as prolonged delay in the auditing process has held up work. Team MiD DAY inspected some of the sites to see how much progress has been made.

"SGS, the company assigned the task of auditing the quality of the soil and the materials used by contractors, is taking very long to submit its reports, as a result of which work is temporarily stalled in many pockets of the city. We have decided to inspect these roads along with their officials, to get to the bottom of the matter.

Many of the contractors have been complaining about the tardiness of the auditor," said BMC's Standing Committee Chairman Rahul Shewale. The visit will take place today.

While the project to re-laying 160 major city roads was flagged off on October 1 last year, there has been a delay in awarding contracts for work on the 700 minor roads, which was slated to begin on December 1.

"Work on minor roads is yet to begin. It is unlikely that it will be completed before the monsoons this year. If it starts pouring while the roads are still dug open, the work that has been done may be spoilt, leading to a wastage of time, money and energy," said a BMC official.

A contractor said, "The auditors are inexperienced people. They don't have any answers to our queries. They keep deferring their responses. We carry out quality tests on our own, as per the BMC rule for contractors. The auditors are wasting our time by conducting the same tests repeatedly. They set back work by two-three months. The work will not even be close to completion by April this year. We will have to stop with the onset of the monsoons and resume after it concludes. This is sure to escalate costs."

Shewale, however, denied any extension in deadline, saying, "We will try to finish the work before monsoon, as the rains always hamper their condition. It is necessary to evaluate what the problem is first."

Expertspeak
N V Merani, chairman of the Standing Technical Advisory Committee (STAC) for roads said, "The tests are part of the routine procedure. If the work is getting delayed because of them, the corporation should check the reason." He warned that work on minor roads would not be completed if the civic body didn't get cracking on the project immediately, saying, "They should at least concentrate their efforts on some selected roads, finishing work on them before the rains start. That way their effort will not be wasted. They can work on the remaining roads after the monsoons."
-- By Nivedita Dargalkar, Dimpi Thakkar, Anamika More, Vishaka Sonawane, Vaishali Chandra and Rinkita Gurav

Mulund
Commenced: October, 2011
Deadline: April, 2012



Work on a 524-metre long road in Mulund (West) has been progressing slowly. At the three construction sites in Mulund (West) -- Ganesh Gawade Road, Zaver Road and RHB Road -- work is crawling along, as is traffic. Work, which started in early October, will be finished only by next March. Sandeep Kamble, the supervisor at the site, appeared clueless about the soil-testing procedure, as well as the auditor. "50 workers are working hard, even on weekends. But we need to stop work after 11 pm every night, for the convenience of the residents."

"My clientele has diminished by 25 per cent, because customers find it difficult to negotiate their way here. Car parking is also difficult on these scarred roads."
-- Rajesh Gada, owner of a boutique in the area

CST Pipeline
Commenced: December, 2011
Deadline: February, 2012



Movement of traffic and pedestrians in one of the busiest hubs of the city has been hindered since December, as the civic body has been laying a pipeline. Around 150 metres of the road adjoining CST has been dug up to lay the pipelines. Besides, craters measuring 4-5 metres each have been excavated in front of the BMC office. Faulty drilling has led to foul smelling- leakages. The site supervisor appointed by the contractor said, "The work will take atleast two months to complete. We are working 14 hours a day on daily basis."

"There is a foul-smelling hole in front of our hotel. My clientele has dwindled by 50 per cent. And the noise is deafening"
-- A Hotel Owner

Bandra West
Commenced: October, 2011
Deadline: April, 2012
Road repair work on the 400 metre-long stretch from Pali Naka to St Peter's Church began two months ago. About 30 per cent of the work has been completed. Residents, however, have been bearing the brunt of the cacophony of drills and machines. Parking too has become a perennial problem.
Engineer Dilip Rathore, in-charge of the road repair in Bandra said, "We will take about 8 more months to complete work on the stretch. During monsoons, we take extra care of the steel rods and concrete material to avoid problems."

"It is very difficult to reach the parking venues. Walks have become hazardous because of all the gaping holes"
-- Princy Alexander

Nehru Road, Vile Parle (East)
Commenced: October, 2010
Deadline: April, 2011



The ongoing construction of a cement concrete road means problems for residents commuting to the Vile Parle railway station. Severe traffic jams and vehicular congestion are commonplaces.
The site supervisor Mahadev Narsinghe admitted that work had been delayed, saying, "After the road was dug up, an analysis of the soil and rocks in the area is being carried out. Once the results of these tests come in, the work of concretising the road will commence." Vikram, the planning engineer said, "Each and every road has a different typography. Some issues developed after the road was excavated, and we were awaiting permission for certain matters. Things have been sorted out and the work will be concluded soon."

"Because of the digging work, the side of the road which is functional gets over-crowded with pedestrians and motorists, especially during the peak hours."
-- Anantini Ghosh

VN Purav Marg, Chembur
Commenced: November, 2010
Deadline: January 15, 2011
The sewage line in the area is being cleaned and widened. The barricades installed on the road have left limited space for vehicles to pass, forcing them to use only a single lane. 
Site supervisor Vilas Vankhede said, "Digging up the whole lane would have created problems for motorists and pedestrians. So the work is being done in parts. One side of the road is always free for use."

"When I am on my way home every evening, the barricades make it difficult for vehicles to negotiate the stretch."
-- Rajesh Bhanushali

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