Potholed roads: Heads of civic bodies,govt agencies quibble at HC hearing

Court asks civic heads to submit their plans for better roads on September 5

Written by Express News Service | Mumbai | Published: August 14, 2013 1:33 am

Stressing the need for improved roads connecting the city and suburbs,Bombay High Court Tuesday asked the heads of various government agencies and civic bodies to work in better co-ordination.

“In a city like Mumbai,prices are so high. People can’t buy houses in south Mumbai where their offices are located. Roads are the arteries of the city. You have to give them first-class roads,” the court said.

Chief Justice (CJ) Mohit Shah and Justice M S Sanklecha had taken suo motu cognisance of a letter by Justice Gautam Patel July 24 pointing out the pathetic condition of roads that had led to fatal accidents.

Tuesday’s hearing held in the High Court’s conference room was attended by Advocate General Darius Khambata,Chief Secretary Jayantkumar Banthia,BMC Commissioner Sitaram Kunte,Thane Municipal Commissioner Aseem Gupta,Navi Mumbai Municipal Commissioner Abasaheb Jarhad,MMRDA Commissioner U P S Madan and senior counsels and officials of government bodies like the PWD,MSRDC and the Mumbai Port Trust.

“There has to be better co-ordination between the agencies,” said Chief Justice Shah. The court suggested that the agencies come together and issue tenders for road contracts to attract major,reputed players. “You all want good roads. If you just pool in your resources,you will get better results. Why not come together and award contracts?” the court said.

Madan told the court that inter-agency co-ordination will be difficult while awarding contracts as they could not be combined as an authority. Banthia said financially,it will be difficult as contractors may not come forward if payment was staggered.

Kunte made a presentation before the court displaying the procedures adopted by the BMC while awarding road contracts and the challenges before the civic body in repairing and maintaining roads.

Kunte told the court,“Digging up of roads because of utilities is the biggest challenge that the BMC faces. Utility mapping is not very precise in Mumbai. We have had meetings and GIS is being used for utility mapping. We don’t have a legacy of good utilities. Once we get a handle on it,it will be a solution.”

“Your paperwork is good but results are not seen,” CJ Shah said.

Counsel for Western India Automobile Association Janak Dwarkadas told HC that in some cases,the condition of elevated roads that have no utilities underneath is worse than the surface roads. He suggested that as in some countries,highways should be given for adoption to private entities and they should be made responsible for maintaining the road. Khambata said the proposal “sounds nice” but the government agencies could not abdicate their responsibility.

When the court wanted to know how cities like Singapore and Delhi maintained their roads,Principal Secretary of Urban Development Department,Shrikant Singh,said the fundamental difference between was the pattern of rainfall.

Senior principal scientist N K S Pundhir of the Central Road Research Institute (CRRI) said the cold-mix technology for road repairs devised by the institute was effective in countering potholes even during rains. MMRDA chief engineer Sharad Sabnis said the polymer modified bitumen used on the Bandra-Worli Sea Link had not given way since 2009. The court observed that the roads in corporation limits stood on a different footing and asked the MMRDA,MSRDC and MbPT to not attend the next hearing.

Seeking a plan of action from the civic bodies,the court added municipal corporations of Mira-Bhyander and Vasai-Virar as parties to the case. The corporations have been asked to submit their plans on September 5.

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