The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) used up the entire 38 tonnes of pothole filling material it had imported from Israel and Austria well before the rainy season was over, even as a majority of the post-monsoon road repair works are yet to begin. Civic activists have questioned the corporation’s priorities, pointing out that the quantity of the imported filling material was clearly not enough and the BMC could have purchased more, since a large number of potholes have been left attended.
Two kinds of pothole filling material – Smart Fill from Israel and Midas Touch from Austria — were imported at a cost of Rs 70 lakh. Civic officials said the imported materials were used only on important stretches. Officials from various wards lauded the quality of the imported material. “We have applied the material at several stretches and it is still intact. Despite heavy rainfall, the results have been positive,” said Santoshkumar Dhonde, assistant municipal commissioner of S ward.
Figures collected from the road department revealed that the highest amount of material was used by S ward, which includes areas like Bhandup, Ghatkopar and Mulund, among others. While most of the wards used less than 2 metric tons of the two kinds of material, S ward used more than 5 metric tons to fill around 100 potholes. “We used most of the material at 10 locations on the Jogeshwari-Vikhroli Link Road and at five locations on Quarry Road in Bhandup. We also filled potholes at Bindu Madhav Thakare junction and Jollyboard Marg,” said an official from S ward.
The second highest entry on the list was of K East ward, which used 3.2 MT. The assistant municipal commissioner of the ward, Devendrakumar Jain, said the material was used at six locations. “We used the material on roads which experience a lot of traffic movement, including N.S Phadke Marg, Aarey Road, parts of JVLR and roads in areas like Vile Parle East and Mahakali Caves,” he said. The P-North area used around 3 MT of the material at the junction of Mamletdarwadi Road and S.V Road as well as D’Monte lane in Malad West.
While the material has almost been exhausted, citizen activists criticised the neglect on part of civic officials. Some even alleged that ward officials refused to use the imported material on certain bad stretches even after multiple complaints. Nikhil Desai, an activist and resident of Matunga, said, “I had repeatedly asked the ward officials to use the material at the Dadar T.T junction which has been in a terrible condition for the past three years and on Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Road. They have just been using cold mix which washes away within a day or two. When I inquired, the ward officials kept saying that the material had not arrived and when it did, they used it elsewhere.”
Citing similar concerns, Dadarao Bilhore, a resident of Andheri East whose son Prakash (16) died after the motorbike he was riding pillion fell into an open, submerged trench on Jogeshwari Vikhroli Link Road on July 22 last year, criticised BMC’s “neglectful” attitude. “Despite complaining to the ward officials and staging protests, potholes are still present on Marol Maroshi Road and many other roads in Andheri which run below the Metro lines. The commute is especially risky for two-wheelers, but the BMC pays no attention to it,” he said.
Questioning the civic body’s priorities, Bilhore said instead of wasting funds on beautification projects, the BMC could have used the money to import more of the filling material and improve the quality of more roads. Officials from the road department had earlier said they would keep a close watch on the use of the imported material. However, they seem to have failed to do so. Ward officials simply gave an estimate and collected the material from the Asphalt Plant in Worli.