Recording the road story

Recording the road story

Recording the road story

Faced with the daunting task of maintaining roads in an ever-expanding City, the Palike has come up with a GIS-supported system to keep track of road development projects.

Roads remain the most visible face of infrastructure development of a city, however cosmetic they may be.

So, you would expect the civic agencies to maintain at least these in good shape. But one look at the careless way in which roads are cut and left unrepaired, poor asphalting work, leakages, unequal alignments, and you are left with a zillion unanswered questions. About the lack of coordination among various civic agencies, about poor planning and execution, and about a serious lacuna in maintaining a road history.

The Bruhat Bangalore Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) has finally realised the need for a record of every road taken up for development work. Palike sources say all the eight zones have been asked to maintain a detailed file on each road in the City to avoid ‘unnecessary’ projects.

Earlier this year, the BBMP had made provisions to videograph the 365 arterial and sub-arterial roads in the City to ensure transparency. The mapping of the condition of the arterial roads and sub-arterial roads was seen as an exercise required by the BBMP to prepare an action plan and submit it to the High Court in a case pertaining to the increasing potholes on the roads.

There has been a crying need to do all this and more. Double billing, issuing job codes to projects already completed by other departments, and persistent digging of roads by one agency or the other have created havoc on the streets. The motives appear to profit only a few individuals.

In May this year, the Palike issued orders to stop payment of Rs 38 crore towards asphalting, widening and improvement of roads in and around Surana College, Hennur Road, Hoysala Circle, Okalipuram, Ambedkar Nagar near S V K Kalyana Mantapa, Mission Road and Mysore Road and the stretch from Sirsi Circle to Ring Road.

Reason: The engineers concerned allegedly connived to ensure that their men got the contract and in some cases, even got a partial sum released to the chosen contractors. 

This example is one of the many serious charges levelled against the civic agencies in allegedly trying to fund the contractors’ lobby and make a ‘little’ money on the side. Trying to curb this ‘wasteful’ expenditure, several attempts are being made by the civic agencies to minimise the number of projects sanctioned every year for the re-laying of roads and utility lines in the City limits.

Integration with utility services

For the first time since its inception, the BBMP has made allocations to maintain a history of roads in its limits. As per the reforms proposed, the Geographic Information System (GIS) is likely to be utilised for approval of infrastructure projects related to roads, footpaths, drains improvement, etc.

The GIS is also likely to be integrated with the Bangalore Water Supply and Sewerage Board (BWSSB),  the Bangalore Electricity Supply Company (Bescom), the Karnataka Power Transmission Corporation Limited (KPTCL) and the Bharat Sanchar Nigam Limited (BSNL) lines for a complete mapping of the City’s utility lines.

Further, to avoid road digging and curtail damage, the BBMP is also making provisions to have ducts in as many roads as possible. Palike officials said the BBMP will introduce a comprehensive duct system along 73.5 kilometre of roads under the new Tendersure concept. The 45 roads which have been allocated close to Rs 200 crore in the BBMP budget 2012-13 will have these ducts.

However, BBMP officials are sceptical about civic agencies utilising the ducts. “It is quite a cumbersome project for most civic agencies to agree to shift their utility lines, some of which are not even mapped for decades. Agencies like the BWSSB and KPTCL have to either cut the existing lines in the middle of the roads and lay fresh lines, or shift the entire line to the ducts,” a Palike official said.

On the creation of a road history, BBMP officials are optimistic that the ‘unwanted’ projects will be curbed drastically with the introduction of a centralised system to map the projects on City roads. “We will be going live with the centralised system in the next three months,” said a senior BBMP official.

The GIS is at the core of the road history project to identify roads. “We are tracing the history of roads with satellite imagery as recent as three months. But, this will only be a template, as the spatial data can be updated with recent pictures,” an official explained.

With 94,318 roads, including major, ward-level, minor and intermediary roads, the BBMP will maintain an online record of the projects taken up on these roads.

“With the zonal chief engineer having close to 10,000 roads under his jurisdiction, it is hard to keep track of the road cuttings and digging across the City. A software will make it mandatory for each executive engineer to provide the reasons online, every time a project is executed, and update the chief engineer of the progress,” he said.

The software developed in-house also has the facility to mark the portion of road under construction.

The history will comprise width and length and the number of projects on each road. “We are also looking at ensuring that permission for digging roads is also regulated. In certain cases, while permission to dig roads has been given on 10 occasions, penalty is collected only for five instances,” an official noted. To arrest this, the software will keep tabs on the number of times the road is ‘destroyed’ and ‘asphalted’.

BBMP IT Advisor T Seshadri says the system is likely to be functional in the next three months. “We are in the finishing stages and are scheduled to go live in the next three months.”

BBMP Commissioner Shankarlinge Gowda hopes that the creation of road history will herald a new era of transparency and ensure that the projects are taken on a ‘need’ basis. “It will help in avoiding duplication of works,” he said.

 While there is no dearth of efforts being made by the civic agencies, the fact remains that exploitation of loopholes and political ‘exercise’ of proposing ‘development’ projects will always encourage civil works that cause more harm than good to the City and its people.

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