Splitting the Municipal Corporation of Delhi into three in 2012 saw distribution of resources, finances and personnel. In the trifurcation process, a road repair machine, purchased by the unified corporation in 2008, came into the possession of the North Delhi Municipal Corporation. It remains the only one to date among the three civic bodies.
The single patch repair machine, formally called the Nu-phalt Thermal Road Repair machine, operates mostly in areas under the North corporation. Engineers of the North civic body say the other corporations can ask for it, but have not made such requests recently.
The machine, made in the UK, costs Rs 1.45 crore and can patch potholes in approximately 20 minutes, saving the rest of the road from damage and ensuring commuter safety, say officials. It was procured for the corporation by Trans Metalite India.
Superintending engineer (Auto) at the North corporation, J P S Deshwal, says once a road is constructed, contractors do not want to go back for repairs, since bringing man and machinery back to the spot is expensive for them. “In such a situation, it is easier to take the nu-phalt machine to the spot and it lays a 1 metre by 2 metre patch of roughly 40 mm thickness to repair a pothole. This saves the road from further damage.”
Corporations are responsible for roads measuring less than 60-ft in width and most such roads, as per civic officials, are bitumen-asphalt roads. For this material to hold, it needs a specific temperature and no moisture. “Therefore, the machine cannot be used in the rainy season as the material will not bond and the patch will not hold,” says Deshwal.
The machine heats the patch and the surrounding area using infrared heating and deposits the bitumen concrete, which dries and settles in approximately 20 minutes. The patch is seamless and traffic can ply on the surface immediately.
After monsoons, the demand for road repairs increases and the machine is sent to different wards based on a first come, first served basis unless there is an emergency. With an approval from the mayor or the commissioner concerned, the machine can be sent to a spot out of turn.
The machine is loaded on a truck and can only be taken to areas where the truck can enter. This rules out its use in many congested areas and authorities rely on traditional manual road repair methods at such spots.
Mukesh Sharma, Chief Operating Officer of Trans Metalite, says nu-phalt’s patented technology works well for India, “as it can be used in the heat in Delhi and Rajasthan to sub-zero temperatures”, except in direct rainfall. He adds that apart from government agencies, private road construction companies are also purchasing this machine. According to the company, the NDMC and the PWD are also using this machine on contract.