BENGALURU :There is the classic question about the chicken and the egg – which came first? The same could be asked of potholes and roads! Our untarred road sections resemble the Mars landscape and tarred road design aims to ensure we don’t miss them potholes. Potholes dot our civic ‘roadscape’ across the city. Today’s puddle is tomorrow’s pothole, as asphalt and water just don’t get along. And our road designers have ensured that all water does not drain away so that we can have a fair share of these natural speed breakers. And some of the biggest potholes tend to near signal intersections slowing us all down!
So how does one solve a problem like potholes, a scourge as common as the cockroach and mosquitoes. Back in early 2000’s when these potholes first burst into our collective consciousness, the then BMP decided to have an officer who counted them.
There are definitional problems of what constitutes a pothole – its quite simple if there is no proper road which means there is no pothole. And on tarred roads a thumb rule suggested was dimensions of 3 feet by 3 feet with a depth of 2 inches. One can quibble with the definitions but the pothole officer of the early 2000s pulled out a figure of around 35,000 potholes. Since then we have varying numbers and of late its mention of 15,000-17,000 which puts it at a about 1.2 potholes per km of road which seems low.
So, how does one avoid potholes? Given water as enemy of tar, imperative that no puddles form, and all water is drained away within 20 minutes of a heavy rain. This means the road geometry in execution needs to slope towards the drain. Further, the drain should exist, be silt, sewerage free and allow for ground water charge.
Off late, the city authorities believe that white topping (concrete roads) is the answer but if its ever cut, the repaired portions are worse than potholes. Filling potholes is a profitable exercise for the contractors. Keeps repeating and no clear count of what got done. And nothing like a crisis with everyone hollering for action to get adhoc fund releases for civic work sans processes. Unless this approach changes and we think about the cost, these roads can have on our lives, potholes will be around for generations. With cockroaches and mosquitoes.