Chandigarh roads in a mess, Rs 50 crore spent on recarpeting in two years goes into pits

Hina Rohtaki
Chandigarh Newsline visited some roads, which were recarpeted in the last three months with a former Punjab chief engineer (building and roads wing), and discovered that the roads, which are supposed to last for at least five years, had eroded within a month. (Express photo)

A Whopping Rs 50.73 crore was spent on recarpeting various roads in the city in the last 24 months, and similar work worth Rs 32 crore is lined up for 2019-20. But the rutted roads of the city tell a tale of poor raw material, sub-standard work, and utter lack of monitoring.

Chandigarh Newsline visited some roads, which were recarpeted in the last three months with a former Punjab chief engineer (building and roads wing), and discovered that the roads, which are supposed to last for at least five years, had eroded within a month. At some points, there was an excessive use of coarse aggregate (gravel and pebbles) which was leading to porosity and at some places, fine aggregate (sand or crushed stone which can pass through a fine sieve) was more, leading to pits. In certain cases, proper mixing, scratching and levelling had not been carried out, and in others, appropriate camber (a tilt built into a road at a bend or curve, enabling vehicles to maintain speed) was not provided.

What was most disconcerting about this exercise was the conspiracy of silence and the fear of contractors. Newsline contacted 12 retired engineers, requesting them to carry out an inspection of the prematurely worn-out stretches, only one agreed. And a day after this inspection, he too called to request us not to use his name. I am retired, it is a question of my safety.

Municipal Corporation Chief Engineer Manoj Bansal, when contacted, did not comment anything on the condition of roads which have been recarpeted just now. Bansal saw the messages sent by Newsline but did not respond.

In private hands

Sources said the deterioration began when the task of inspecting the road works was given to private organisations. Earlier, the recarpeted roads had to undergo a third-party inspection by engineers of the Department of Civil Engineering of either Punjab Engineering College (PEC) or the National Institute of Technical Teachers Training and Research (NITTTR), Sector 26. But two years ago, the work of giving a quality control certificate was given to private consultants.

Under MC watch

Eighty per cent of the roads in the city are with the Municipal Corporation and the remaining with the UT Administration. All V3, V4, V5, V6 roads, all link roads, village phirni roads, parking roads, are with the MC, while V1 and V2 roads of the city are with the administration. From January 2017 to date, the MC spent Rs 50.73 crore on recarpeting or repairing roads. A sum of Rs 32 crore has been earmarked for recarpeting this year.

The condition of the roads in the city has never been this bad partly because the MC decided to undertake recarpeting in tandem with the pre-monsoon showers. It is well-known that water is the biggest enemy of freshly laid bitumen. Experts say carrying out road repair in rain amounts to wasting public money because water does not allow the material to bind.

It is the standard operating procedure (SOP) that roads should not be made when rains are round the corner. Water and bitumen are arch enemies. The first thing that we do while constructing or recarpeting a road is to ensure that the surface is dry. Even little water or moisture won t allow the material to bind, and the road will start giving up within a few days, said retired chief engineer K B Sharma.

In the stretch opposite the Kiran Cinema in Sector 22, commuters have to drive around potholes because the road construction work, which was being carried out in rain, has been abandoned mid-way. The road-rollers and other machines are parked on the side, leaving commuters to deal with the nightmare of negotiating an uneven road. Two-wheeler riders often skid on the stretch at night.

Dr Ajay Duggal, an associate professor at the Department of Civil Engineering from NITTTR, said, For the last two years, they have not got the third-party inspection done from us and they were getting it done from private consultants. Now I have received a communique from the commissioner that they want NITTTR to carry out the quality control inspection and we have been allotted the work. We will be doing it for them.