Rains, Games blamed for collapse of Delhi’s roads

August 29th, 2010 - 6:31 pm ICT by IANS  

By Prathiba Raju
New Delhi, Aug 29 (IANS) At least 20 incidents of road cave-ins have occurred here in the past fortnight and dozens of other roads are in a dilapidated state. Heavy rains, poor road engineering and maintenance by civic agencies and heavy vehicle traffic due to Commonwealth Games construction are making Delhi’s roads crumble, creating huge craters in places and peeling away tar from re-laid pathways.

In the past week alone, Delhi traffic police received 106 complaints about the pathetic condition of major roads. Experts say regular maintenance can go a long way in preventing roads from crumbling, but the stitch is never in time.

“This is the first time so many cases of cave-ins have been reported. Road cave-ins and potholes have resulted in unending jams and traffic diversions. Certain carriageways are not even motorable,” a Delhi traffic official told IANS.

Delhi roads bear the brunt of around 40 lakh (four million) vehicles every day, according to state-run consultancy RITES. Over 20 incidents of roads caving in have been reported since Aug 14, most of them in areas under the New Delhi Municipal Council (NDMC) and the Municipal Corporation of Delhi (MCD).

P.K. Sarkar, head of transport planning at the School of Planning and Architecture (SPA), told IANS: “The main reason for several road cave-ins is improper construction activities being carried out in various parts of the city ahead of the Oct 3-14 Games.

“Many sewer and water pipelines are cut. Over a period of time, water starts seeping and the soil gives way when it rains heavily.”

Roads caved in in areas like Jaswant Singh Road near Andhra Bhavan, Ashoka Road, Yusuf Sarai, Aurobindo Marg, Kasturba Gandhi Marg, Maharani Marg and Nyaya Marg.

The Geeta Colony Bridge - laid just a year ago near Rajghat - and Siri Fort Road, opposite the main Games venues for badminton and squash, caved in a week ago, throwing traffic out of gear.

“Due to the Commonwealth Games, a lot of construction is happening in the city. We are continuously working to fill up potholes with cold and hot emulsions. As of now, potholes and road cave-in complaints are much less in areas under the MCD jurisdiction as compared to those under the Public Works Department (PWD),” Ravi Das, engineer-in-chief of MCD, told IANS.

According to norms, a contractor working for both the PWD and MCD has to give a five-year warranty for the roads he lays. If a road gives way before that, it is the responsibility of the contractor to repair it.

But engineers say huge potholes emerge on the roads right after the monsoon as most Delhi roads have bituminous layers.

“Bitumen loses the binding quality when it comes in contact with water; as and when waterlogging happens the top layer of the road erodes. If small potholes are not filled in time, they keep crumbling further owing to the friction as vehicles ply over them,” a junior engineer in MCD told IANS on condition of anonymity.

Sunil Bose, head of the flexible pavement division of the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI), said, “Potholes and incidents of road cave-ins are definitely avoidable in any city if proper maintenance is carried out.

“Due to the lackadaisical approach of government agencies, the national capital’s roads are in such a dilapidated condition.”

He said potholes never form overnight. Timely attention should be ensured to avert the formation of small potholes which soon turn into big craters.

“Various construction works ahead of the Commonwealth Games are one of the reasons for the increase in road cave-in incidents. With debris getting collected, sewer pipelines get choked and stormwater also gushes in, creating pressure.

“At the same time, there is a heavy continuous traffic flow on the roads. Notwithstanding the pressure, roads cave in. Road cave-ins usually happen on busy and big roads due to heavy pressure,” Bose explained.

With roads breaking apart owing to the onslaught of the rains, re-laying of roads and patchwork repairs are an annual ritual. Motorists are forced to negotiate big ditches and two-wheeler riders find it too risky to venture close to these ditches.

“We get such complaints during every monsoon. Nothing can be done about it. Whenever roads are eroded, we will carry out patchwork,” said a PWD official.

(Prathiba Raju can be contacted at prathiba.r@ians.in)

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