KOCHI: The passengers in the bus could hear the gasps of the commuters in the car which slipped into a pothole after which the wheels on the right side of the bus too staggered into the ditch, three-fourth of the wheels submerged. This is Ponnurunni underpass for you.
Vehicles were rerouted via the underpass to access the Vytilla Mobility Hub following the flyover construction since December 2017. The stretch, notorious for traffic bottlenecks replete with potholes, is now waterlogged, thereby posing a dangerous threat to passengers, especially those in two-wheelers. However, after several failed attempts, the authorities concerned have decided to block a part of the stretch to attend to the matter.
"Why have the authorities not attended to the potholes before monsoons? The stretch has become difficult to navigate with the driver unable to gauge the depth of the potholes which is brimming with water. The glitches should have been filled with concrete before the monsoon or efficient systems could have been put in place to drain the water away," said Baby Joseph, a resident.
The stretch from Vytilla till the Ponnurunni underpass falls under the ownership of the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), while the Ponnurunni Temple till the underpass belongs to the Kochi Corporation. According to P Rangadasa Prabhu, president of the Ernakulam District Residents' Association Apex Council (EDRAAC), the stretch is a reflection of the insouciant attitude of the authorities concerned. "The NHAI officials, Public Works Department (PWD) and the Kochi Corporation are adept in playing the blame game. A collapse of administration is visible. Every department is reluctant to allocate the required funds for this paramount issue. There is life at stake here. It is of immediate necessity that the Collector must intervene and coordinate among the departments, thereby ensuring work is done efficiently. In fact, such stretches should have been mended early with the upcoming monsoon in mind," he said.
PS Shine, councillor of Vytilla division, said he had brought the issue to light with NHAI three months ago but his efforts were in vain. However, post the heavy rains on Monday, with the help of the contractor of the bridge, a trench was temporarily made along the sides of the retaining wall to drain water, he said.
"On Tuesday night, a meeting was convened with the NHAI authorities upon which a decision was made to close the concerned stretch by the next night and pave tiles on the pothole-ridden road. The work began on Wednesday night and it will take a week to resolve the problem temporarily. Further, PWD will reconstruct wider drainage ducts," he said. Contractors are usually unwilling to take up such work as payment has been delayed on a regular basis.
"Work in some stretches have been stuck in a rut as the Kerala Water Authority (KWA) had left its trenches open for pipeline work. Everything eventually points to the lack of coordination among several departments," he said. The District Collector was unavailable for comment.