Controversial paver blocks are set to make a comeback on Mumbai’s roads. Back-tracking on its earlier decision to bar the use of paver blocks, the BMC is set to use them on road patches, which have underground utilities.
The instruction was issued by Municipal Commissioner Praveen Pardeshi on August 21, when a joint meeting of all department officials and contractors was organised to check the status of major projects.
“The absence of paver blocks creates a bigger problem. We need paver blocks on parts of roads that have underground pipelines and where rain water accumulates. If there is a utility under a road and it has a tar surface, we have to dig up the road. But in case of paver blocks, it is much easier. We can remove the paver blocks and once work is completed, they can be relaid again without damaging the road,” Pardeshi said.
Maintaining that the matter will be referred to the BMC technical advisory committee, he said: “If there is no underground utility on the side strips, we don’t need paver blocks. But in case of multiple underground utilities, paver blocks can be used to avoid repeated digging of tar roads.”
A BMC official present at the meeting said, “During the discussion on repairs and how to improve the quality of roads, the municipal commissioner asked officials about the use of paver blocks for side strips and smaller roads. Road department officials informed him about the ban on use of paver blocks on roads.”
“However, he was not convinced and said that paver blocks are successfully used worldwide. Later, he instructed that it should be used on side strips of roads or wherever it is needed. The instructions have been passed on to the officials of the road department.” In most instances, underground pipelines pass through side strips on roads, officials said.
In 2016, then municipal commissioner Ajoy Mehta had banned paver blocks after residents complained about broken paver blocks and craters causing traffic jams. Subsequently, a circular was issued instructing the road department not to use paver blocks in any new road repair works.
Currently, when a cement concrete road is built, the BMC leaves space on both sides for utility works. These side patches, also known as side strips, are made of asphalt since they are easy to dig. Earlier, the same strips were made of paver blocks, which the civic body had replaced with asphalt after the ban. Even paver blocks installed on smaller roads were replaced in phases. The Statuary Technical Advisory Committee had also suggested not to use paver blocks.
An official from the road department said, “In 2017, a proposal of repairing about 13 minor roads in Malad with paver block was tabled before BMC Standing Committee. However, it was rejected and the administration was directed not to use paver blocks anymore. Not only roads, in 2019, the civic body also barred the use of paver blocks on footpaths finding them accident-prone and easily breakable.
Paver blocks were first introduced in 2003 on Mumbai roads. Till 2016, more than Rs 1,000 crore was spent on them.