IISc Professor – The New Indian Express


Express press service

BENGALURU: Voices are growing louder against Bangalore’s poor road infrastructure, even as the state government courts foreign investors in the city. A few days ago, Biocon chief Kiran Mazumdar-Shaw also criticized the apathetic attitude of civic authorities and the state government regarding the maintenance of the city’s roads. Ashish Verma, Professor, Transportation Systems Engineering, Convenor, IISc Sustainable Transportation (IST) Lab, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science (IISc), in an exclusive interview, highlights what can be done to get good roads in Bengaluru, saying it is not rocket science.

Roads are like the arteries and veins of the body. What should be done to ensure that the roads are well maintained?
Good quality workmanship, quality road construction materials, proper and systematic road construction practices, adequate and prompt drainage of rainwater from road surfaces are the important fundamental aspects to ensure well-maintained roads and their longevity. In addition, inter-agency coordination is essential to ensure that roads are not dug freely and frequently. In the case of white-coated roads, care must be taken to ensure that the concrete is not broken soon after it has been laid – for example, on the outer ring road where, a few months after the white coating, the concrete has been broken for the construction of the metro line. . Also, if the stormwater drainage is not well maintained, even a road with good quality materials and construction will develop potholes in no time. There should be rainwater drains of adequate capacity on both sides of the road and suitable cross slopes on the roads. If the water remains in contact with the road surface for a longer time, the bitumen will detach from the stone aggregates, thereby losing its bonding property, resulting in loose stones and resulting in the formation of potholes.

What are the problems plaguing roads in cities, towns and rural areas?
Urban roads are plagued by poor workmanship by contractors and workers, poor road construction materials, improper and unsystematic road construction practices, lack of adequate and timely drainage of rainwater from the surface of road and widespread corruption in civic organizations. There is literally a circular economy being created, which generates business for the few who benefit from the frequency of potholes/bad roads. In addition to this, vehicle overloading, frequent road digging, and poor vehicle maintenance are problems plaguing urban roads. These also lead to more wear and tear on the road surface.

In rural areas too, overloading of heavy and light commercial vehicles and passenger vehicles is a factor in road deterioration. In addition, there is a need to improve the standards prescribed for rural roads. We should have all-weather roads connecting villages with good surface quality and motorable roads during all months and all seasons of the year.

Can you explain the science behind road maintenance to ensure they stay in top condition?
There is nothing rocket science behind building and maintaining good roads. For black-roofed roads, politicians, bureaucrats and civic agency officials (including technical officers) tend to blame or entirely blame rain for the poor condition of black-roofed roads in Indian cities, including including Bengaluru. It is as if it only rains in India and nowhere else in the world.

Roads are maintained elsewhere on this planet despite rains and even snow in colder places. What is required are basic civil engineering practices, which are taught at the UG (undergraduate) level to all civil engineers. This must be followed correctly, with good workmanship and a focus on detail and accuracy. The roads will then automatically remain in perfect condition. Moreover, the indiscriminate conversion of black-paved roads to white-paved roads on the pretext of improving the quality of the road surface and ensuring its longevity will only add to problems already visible today. For example, concrete slabs were placed on top of a black coated surface, which dramatically raise road levels and lead to more flooding in adjacent areas during rain, and in doing so, no attention was paid. is taken for constructive crossings. service ducts below the concrete surface.

How important is inter-departmental coordination in road maintenance? How can this be ensured?
Inter-agency coordination is essential to ensure that roads are not frequently dug at will. This leads to huge financial losses for the government – mainly a loss of public money – and huge economic and social costs for ordinary people due to increased travel time, more injuries and deaths related to road accidents and increased pollution, particularly that of PM2.5 which leads to greater exposure to fine dust particles and corresponding health impacts. A coordinating agency such as the Department of Urban Land Transport with appropriate powers could be a way to ensure effective inter-agency coordination.

Is it possible to eliminate the threat of potholes on the roads? How can this be done?
Given the circular economy around potholes, some may not like to see roads in good condition. If all best practices are followed, a black road should easily last at least 5-10 years without requiring major maintenance. A white coated road should easily last over 10 years without requiring major maintenance.

How can motorists better play their role in keeping the roads in good condition?
Although the erratic break may have some role, it may not be substantial. Not resorting to overloading vehicles (beyond established standards) and keeping vehicles in good condition are things that motorists can help maintain good roads.


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