KOCHI: Let us analyse how Kochi is different in terms of road construction. The roads are to be built as per the soil strength. In Kochi, the soil-bearing capacity is pretty bad. Primarily, the soil has to be tested in various locations and construction standards to be decided accordingly. You may have to use sand piles, geotextiles or additional reinforcements on the base if the soil is really bad. Geotextiles are available in the market and it spreads the load from the vehicle tyres to a larger area. This also prevents surface cracking. Since the water table in Kochi is high, water penetrates through these cracks and destroys the road surface.
Using plastic or rubber as ingredients also improves the life of roads. If I am not mistaken, Kochi Refineries Ltd has established a plant for rubber mixing but it is not utilised now. Similarly, though the government has specified the use of plastic as an ingredient, the authorities are reluctant to use it even when huge quantities of recycled plastic granules are lying unutilised.
Another important factor is building the drainage along with road construction. In many cases, the roads are built first and no one is bothered about the drainage. There is no master drain system to calculate the quantity of water to be handled which decides the size of the drainage. Kochi, being more or less flat, you may also need pumping water which is never thought of by government officials who still depend on gravity flow.
The most important aspect of maintaining good roads is to do continuous repair as and when the road gets damaged or potholes appear. Better Kochi Response Group (BKRG) has been campaigning to use bitumen cold mix to fill potholes as and when they appear. This mix is available in Kerala.
A pothole can be repaired even in rainy days within five minutes and vehicles can be allowed over this immediately. The application has been demonstrated by BKRG before top PWD engineers and elected representatives many a times with no effect. We have even given a representation to Kerala PWD minister. Immediate repair of potholes will prevent a larger damage and save a lot of money in the end.
Digging up of roads for laying utility lines is another factor that damages roads. Proper underground utility ducts should be given for drainage, power and electronic cables in the beginning itself so that you don’t have to dig up finished surfaces. The roads should be built end to end with standard footpaths, drainage, lighting and road markings instead of doing it in stages.
No one knows who is responsible for a particular road and its construction. The names of the contractor, supervisor and the engineer with their contact numbers should be displayed on the roadsides. The public will take care of the rest.