SACH PE PARDA: The BMC surely doesn’t lack initiative when it comes to doing a rush job. The first picture shot before Republic Day shows a cement base being readied for a flag-hoisting ceremony at a lane in Colaba. The next day, for a locally-held flag-hoisting ceremony, the garbage was hurriedly covered by a white banner readied for a spic-and-span show of sorts. Soon after the event, the banner was removed, the garbage reappeared and the road dug up for the usual ‘repairs’ leaving it in shambles and fully incapable of use.
So, they’re at it again. The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporations polls have arrived and with have come the spurt in repairs and civic works taken up almost with a vengeance. Now, with the code of conduct in place, the work has come to a standstill.
Spending a fortune
The most cash-rich corporation spent around Rs 100 crore to fill up potholes in 2010, oddly following a rain-parched season the preceding year. The figure spent was six times the money the corporation spent after 2005’s 26/7 floods. An RTI application went on to reveal that the civic body had spent around twice the amount needed for road repairs.
The BMC spends as much as Rs. 50 lakh to repair a one kilometre stretch of road. Not that it made any difference to the condition of roads or to the BMC’s image owing to the public disclosure of its absurd claims. Immediately a year later, an RTI application filed in 2011, suggested the BMC spent around Rs three crore to repair ‘one’ kilometer of road.
Despite the ‘maintenance’, residents continue to complain about bad conditions, even refuse to pay toll and threaten to take BMC to court for distress caused by pothole-ridden roads. The BMC spent Rs 5,383 crore in five years, till March 2010 and allotted Rs 1,085 crore in 2010-11.
In another shocking revelation, a Right to Information application revealed the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) spent a whopping Rs 83.9 lakh for painting lanes and zebra crossings on just ten city roads in 2007-08.
The information was revealed by the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation to advocate Armin Wandrewal, an intervener, in a public interest litigation seeking implementation of traffic regulations in the city. Wandrewala filed an affidavit in the Bombay High Court on Monday, which highlighted this information.
To a query posed by Wandrewala who sought information under the RTI Act, the BMC replied it had paid more than Rs 83 lakh to Asphalt Construction for carrying out painting and plastic work on ten roads in 2007-08.
Wandrewala said, “This means, the contractor was paid more than Rs 8 lakh per road," in the affidavit. In what seems to be a sad attempt to put up a front of sorts, a minuscule penalty of Rs 27,500 was imposed on the contractor for failure to finish the painting work, and the contract was renewed for the following year too. "Even the zebra crossing just outside the High Court fades within less than a month of being painted," it said.
In July 2011, it was revealed that there were more than 6,000 potholes across 1,100 locations in the city. The figures were released by an internal report prepared by the civic roads department. Incidentally, the potholes were formed within just a month of the monsoon’s arrival.
At any point of time, a few hours’ downpour leaves the city’s roads peppered with potholes. And, though civic officials acknowledge the issue they always maintain that due to incessant rains, they would be unable to fill them and despite being “ready with the repair material, it could not do the work as rainwater will carry away the material.”
If that wasn’t bad enough, the BMC last year declared a bonus for contractors appointed to fill potholes during monsoon. In August last, BMC municipal commissioner Subodh Kumar sanctioned an additional Rs19.31 crore for fixing potholes. This followed the state government directing the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corp-oration (BMC), public works department and city's development agency to fix 6,057 potholes in the city within 48 hours or face consequences.
Apparently, after filling a pothole, there should be no traffic over that patch for at least 24 hours and the temperature of hot-mix should not be below 110 degrees.
Now, that never ever happens leaving a huge loophole for the authorities when required.
Despite BMC’s claims on concretisation and drainage work completion before the monsoons, South Mumbai’s roads are known to bear the brunt of monsoon-related damage despite all the work initiated by the civic authorities. With the first few showers arriving, the roads along Mohammad Ali Road, Dongri, Nagpada particularly so, Do Tanki begin to register significant signs of wreckage that only worsen as the showers continued. Water-logging in Sion and Chembur reappear year after year despite BMC’s claims to assure a water-logging-free monsoon, again year after year. While the pre-monsoon showers wreak their usual havoc, residents of affected areas are left with little option but to throw up their arms in disgust at the state of affairs that the authorities simply, “can’t solve.”
“I can’t quite understand why the civic authorities begin their disaster-management work to prevent road hazards just days before the rains,” says Nagpada-resident and cloth-trader Akram Wahiuddin. “Thanks to the JJ flyover, the problem isn’t all that aggravated or else it would have been compounded. The distribution of traffic has led to lesser load on these already-cracking roads and by-lanes that are sprinkled with potholes and huge puddles,” he says. Besides causing immense traffic issues during the monsoons, South Mumbai’s roads – with the exception of Cuffe Parade and Colaba which have been concretised to avoid flooding – develop cracks, potholes and dents all along. The numbers of accidents that occur during this period soar owing to dipping visibility and inability to dodge potholes.
Sion’s roads, as usual, immediately develops potholes and cracks within days of the first few pre-monsoon showers. “It has been like this for years,” recalls Sion resident Jalubhai Garodia who has lived here since 1938. “BMC workers do some kind of pre-monsoon work in April and May and disappear once the rains start. By the end of June, things look as bad as they were in the beginning,” he says, completely disillusioned with the civic authorities.
However, there’re residents – albeit handful - who feel that, “managing a colossal city like Mumbai given its daily influx of immigrants isn’t an easy task. “Give them a break,” says Matunga resident and home-maker Lavina Gonzalves. “They do attempt to fill up potholes and repair damaged structures before the rains…but somehow they always open up once it rains heavily,” she says. “Probably if they worked like this throughout the year, anticipating the rains in advance, the issue could be solved,” she says.
“Getting ready to tackle the pot-hole issue just before the rains doesn’t make much sense,” says Girgaum-based key-maker Dineshwar Patil. “Our roads are in a state of perpetual disaster,” he says. “I keep hearing of all their concretisation plans and so on and forth. Instead of making so many flyovers that’re used only by the rich, why don’t the simply repair the roads and bylanes of Mumbai that directly affect the common,” spews Dineshwar.
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