It’s that time of the year again, when the city gears up to weather the elements. It’s also the time of year when MiD DAY takes stock of how rain-ready the city is, how much, or how little, the BMC has done to strengthen and repair the city’s beleaguered roads, which will have to take a pounding from the incessant rains for months to come.
In the first part of this campaign, MiD DAY brings you a gloomy prediction: be prepared to grimace through more rocky rides on pothole-riddled, rain-ravaged roads this year. In spite of over seven months of ‘work’ and a budget of almost Rs 924 crore, the civic body has failed to concretise about half of the major roads it had promised to repair before the monsoons this year.
The deadline to complete repair work on all the earmarked roads was May 31.
Here are more details of this once-ambitious and now-futile road-revamping project, which was flagged off almost eight months back.
The corporation had planned to concretise and asphalt many of the city’s major and minor roads, but not even half of these are ready to take on the approaching onslaught of rains. Roads that lie gaping after being dug up show no signs of being filled — telling us that the BMC has ignored the STAC’s (Standing Technical Advisory Committee) repeated recommendation to complete excavation and resurfacing work by May 15.
While the BMC had promised to complete 70 per cent of the cement concretisation work and 85 per cent asphalting work on all the major roads and half of the 600 minor roads before the monsoon, the job is far from completion. In stark contrast the complete overhaul of the roads promised by the civic body, a flurry of last minute activity can be seen at the repair sites nowadays – with labourers hastily filling up trenches that are sure to cause severe waterlogging when the clouds part.
By May 31, the civic body had managed to concretise only 31 major roads in the city. 22 roads remain untouched, left for another cycle of futile deadlines that is sure to ensue once the monsoon departs this year.
92 major roads have been asphalted, but the work was completed so late that the asphalt may not have time to settle well enough to withstand the rains. Only 147 of 561 minor roads that needed attention have been completely asphalted, far behind the target of 250 set by the former commissioner Subodh Kumar. This, after the BMC shelled out Rs 549 crore for major roads and Rs 375 crore for minor roads.
“The deadline for excavating roads was May 15, after which the contractors were asked not to dig up roads any more. They had to finish off the layering work before May 31. Simultaneously, work on pothole repair should be underway in the city now. No work during the monsoon would be taken up at all,” informed R Ghodke, BMC chief engineer (roads, bridges and traffic).
Nine roads have already been dropped from the list.
Kesavsuth flyover, Dadar
One arterial link that has been suffering the double whammy of poor maintenance and elastic deadlines is Dadar’s Kesavsuth flyover, to the west of the railway station. The flyover has been lying in a miserable condition since last year, and dashing all hopes of citizens who were counting on its repair before the monsoon, the resurfacing work on the bridge began only last Tuesday, a fortnight after the May 15 deadline. This means that the bridge is pretty much a lost cause, at least for this monsoon — as there will not be enough time for the newly- applied surface to rest and settle, so it can resist the battering it would receive from the monsoon rains.
“The BMC has been receiving flak for the poor maintenance of the bridge. This project was taken up to provide relief to citizens. But the work got delayed and began last week,” admitted a senior roads official from the BMC.
The Dadar bridge’s road to recovery has been fraught with setbacks. The civic body had initially tendered the work to cold mix contractors, who soon washed their hands off the job, claiming that it was impossible for them to complete on time. The BMC then appointed a contractor to asphalt the bridge, but soon got experimental, deciding to try out a fancy new technology.
The vacillating corporators eventually abandoned their high-tech aspirations, and decided to make do with asphalting alone.
The bridge is one of the busiest connecting roads in the city. With a dedicated budget of Rs 35 lakh, it is the only bridge in the city that is under extensive repair.
Manuel Gonsalves road, Bandra
While concretisation of the entire stretch was completed after a six-month long phase of work, the divider and the trenches on the sides of the road are still incomplete. “We are working on filling up the trenches and placing pavers. The divider will be ready soon and within a month, the entire road would be ready for public use,” said one of the workers.
People parked their cars here and went away. There was a lot of disturbance due to the noise from the repair work but I hope there aren’t any potholes on the road. There are three schools on the stretch.
— Dominique Mirander, resident
Jai Bhavani Mata, Andheri
While concretisation of the road has been completed, the residents of the area have been plagued by the problem of rain and gutter water seeping into their homes. The civic body now has to deal with twin problems of road drainage and pipeline repair. It had set itself a deadline of May 15 for the same, but work is yet to be completed.
This is India and here problems are likely to happen. The solution requires time and the common man should have patience. The road is almost repaired – now the only problem is of drainage and pipeline change, and this will be completed in the coming week. Thanks to the road construction work, the size of the stretch has increased. — S Sadasawant (46) resident
S S Rao Road, Parel
Parel’s SS Rao Road, which is home to various offices, colleges and schools besides the crucial KEM Hospital, has been lying dug up now for months, forcing cars and pedestrians to jostle for space on only one part of the road that has been mercifully left open.
People whose work takes them to this busy stretch are already making gloomy predictions about how congested the stretch will get once the schools open after summer break.
The stretch at present is quite an eyesore, with mounds of debris littering it on either side, dust storms choking the airways, and pedestrians and drivers risking their lives as they negotiate the narrow sliver left open to them. The looming threat of a malaria breakout is also worrying residents who inhabit the slums in the area.
There are so many schools and colleges here. I shudder to think how packed this road will become once they re-open in a week or two. There are slums around this area too, and when it starts raining, our problems will only escalate.
— Sachin Surve (32), resident
The stretch gets choked with traffic in the peak hours, and it becomes difficult to drive on such a thin stretch. Once it starts raining, people using this road will be greatly inconvenienced.
— Kamal Shirin (22), driver
I am glad that work is being done on this road, but the delay is inconveniencing all of us. Once it starts raining, water will get accumulated in the trenches, which will inevitably give rise to a mosquito problem. Children living in the slums on this road will get affected the most.
— L G Palkar (46), shop owner
The inordinate delay in completion of repair work on this stretch has now become a great source of consternation for residents and vendors.
People have started parking haphazardly on the unused side of the road, as a result of which vendors on this lane are being inconvenienced. There is a temple in the area, as a result of which there is a lot of traffic and congestion in the mornings.
— Munna (33), vegetable vendor
V N Purav Marg, Chembur
Residents of VN Purav Marg in Mankhurd have almost given up hope, thanks to the slew of delays in repair work. A major chunk of the road has been under construction for the past six months, and residents have failed to see any visible signs of progress. The road, which connects Mankhurd station and the bus depot, experiences heavy flow of traffic during peak hours. Residents have complained about frequent power cuts owing to the repair work, as well as malfunctioning phone and internet connections.
Pedestrians have also been finding it difficult to negotiate this lane on their way to home to work, as they have to dodge cranes and other machines and avoid undulations.
Residents also expressed disgust with the labourers, who have reportedly been defecating in the open in a corner of the road, exposing them to diseases.
I have a recruitment consultancy here, and owing to the work on this road, which has been going on for the past six months, we have faced many power cuts. Worse still, our phone and internet lines have malfunctioned on several occasions, because along with the roads, the lines also get dug up. Travelling to and from the station or the bus depot takes far more time nowadays.
— Vaishnavi Gupta (25), proprietor
It has not only become difficult to walk or park around this area but in the past six months, this road has become filthy. The workers urinate and defecate around here and chuck all their trash in some corners. This place has started to stink, and there are more mosquitoes around than there were previously.
— Kiran Gupta (50), homemaker