Barely 6 months have passed since floods lashed Chennai, throwing life off gear. While the government has been trying to pass the buck in explaining that disaster, one thing it has done is to lay spanking new roads that crisscross the city. But instead of being a cause for cheer, residents are enraged and are calling these roads a gimmick that has gone horrible wrong.
When Politicians Turn Road Warriors
That is not a strange assumption to make. The current road-laying spree by the city corporation coincides with the upcoming Tamil Nadu assembly polls which have been set for May 16 of this year. As roads appear to a have high `visibility value’ among voters, several parties like the AIADMK, DMK and the DMDK-PWF alliance have been using their influence to get local authorities to repair existing roads or lay new ones to improve their standing among voters. But as residents have found out, these roads are far from perfect with many claiming that the contractors have not scraped off the old bitumen layers from the old roads. As a result, cracks are already visible on several newly laid roads and many others have grown taller by several inches
“It is absolutely pathetic. The road was laid and a day later, I see the sides of the road are already flowing down. There are no channels for the water to actually go. There has been no tapering done and so the water will stagnate on the sides. If it rains, we will see all the water coming into the building with no channel to go out.” complains Ramakrishnan, Secretary of the Federation of Adyar Residents’ Association.
New Roads, Same Old Problems
Experts say that while bus routes have been laid after careful inspection, it is the interior roads which have seen the maximum number of complaints. Some of the violations observed include reducing the standard bitumen content of 4.5% to 3%, compromising on the average thickness of the new layer, not using a proper binding material to keep the old and new layers together – all of which drastically bring down the quality of the roads. Activists say this is just another example of authorities throwing away taxpayer money on shoddy work.
“The Corporation doesn’t have a georeferenced map of the storm-water drains and doesn’t have a database of the roads and road contractors. It doesn’t analyze the performance of contractors it has worked with and so when we have contractors build various civic amenities, they are not really penalized for poor performance. Residents have no choice but to bear with the poor quality of infrastructure.” claims Satyarupa Shekhar, director of the Citizen Consumer and Civic Action Group (CAG).
Civic officials on condition of anonymity told NDTV that the proper laying of interior roads would take at least a year, not an option considering that the elections are just around the corner. None of the officials were willing to go on record, concerned about possible reprisals from the various political parties in the state. Considering that the floods were a result of poor planning, the government and political parties should take note of this situation and do what they can to fix it. Otherwise, they may just end up losing votes.
Reporter : Smitha TK, NDTV
Web Editor : Nikhil Narayan Sivadas, NDTV