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Stirred and shaken

Poornima Nataraj, Bangalore, April 6, 2013, DHNS:

Underground utility shifting. That is every Bangalorean’s worst nightmare come true. The chaotic maze of pipelines down below the city’s streets is bad enough. But to endure those surgical incisions to search for leaking sewage and water lines, to repair and maintain them, is torture magnified.

Forget the old and corroded British era water and sanitary lines. The Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB) has the cumbersome task of replacing thousands of lines and repairing leaks daily. And that means digging deep, inconveniencing the public. Lack of coordination between the different agencies including the traffic police only makes the mess messier! So, one agency lays a road, another digs it the next day before a third agency jumps in for another deeper dig!
There was this classic 2010 episode when the British Prime Minister David Cameroon came visiting. His cavalcade had to pass through Ulsoor Road.

But BWSSB had availed permission to dig the road for repair work during the same time. Eventually, the Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) rushed in and hurriedly patched up the pot-holes to give it a semblance of respectability. Once Cameron passed, BWSSB men dug up the entire asphalted stretch again. The chaos was back in full force.

Caught in a twister by the recent sewage and water line laying, the residents of KR Puram, for instance, had their lives turned upside down for months. First the BWSSB laid water pipes under the Greater Bangalore Water Supply (GBWAS) project. In the process, the roads asphalted during the last BBMP elections were dug up. Months later, the excavators arrived, digging deeper for sewer lines under the Karnataka Municipal Reforms Project, and cutting those PVC water pipes. “They had no clue about the water lines. Many telecom lines and power cables were also cut in the process,” says Simon, a resident there.

BWSSB did patchwork repair of the roads once the sewer lines were laid. But the Palike was back after three months, digging again, relaying the entire roads. The process, painfully slow, is still in progress in those outlying areas. Motorists endure the dust and sandstorms as the asphalt is yet to take shape. “BWSSB took up the work of laying sanitary lines, but are not restoring the roads on time. Due to the mud lying on the road, it has become very dusty causing respiratory illnesses. During rains, it becomes extremely difficult for commuters on these roads,” says Satish Reddy, a resident of Byatarayanapura.

To fix certain roads that had an overdose of potholes, BBMP started concretising the roads. This has emerged as a major problem for BWSSB, while digging for any repair work. Gowramma, a social worker in Vijinapura, KR Puram, recalls how drain blockage in the newly laid sanitary lines could not be fixed as the water board could not dig through the tough concrete. “Fixing leakages and sanitary block in concrete roads is a problem. Ideally, roads must be asphalted, but BBMP is doing a one-time job and causing a lot of inconvenience to other civic agencies,” she notes, frustration writ large over her face.


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