Raised manholes are death traps

Raised manholes are death traps

BWSSB is building manholes above road level that are causing accidents and posing risks to life and limb

Manholes in many places are raised many inches above the road level. This one is on Kasturba Road in the heart of the city. The condition on roads in the interior neighbourhoods is worse. DH Photos by Janardhan B K and s k dinesh

Have you noticed manholes popping up in the middle of the road, raised to such a height that they could violently throw two-wheeler riders out of their seats?

Badly built manhole covers are common in Bengaluru. They are death traps, and are causing serious accidents, warn doctors in Nimhans.

Protruding manhole at KEB Layout, RMV 2nd Stage. It could cause two-wheeler
riders to lose balance and crash.

The trauma hospital receives quite a few manhole-related injury cases, with the accidents taking place mostly after dusk. Anything that is elevated above the road surface could cause fatal road crashes.

Dr G Gururaj, senior professor, epidemiology and public health, Nimhans, has seen many trauma cases caused by protruding manhole covers. “Any speeding vehicle that is not able to recognise the danger ends in a crash. The impact of the crash is dependent on the location, speed and type of vehicle,” he says.

The higher the speed, the greater the damage. Two-wheeler riders are especially vulnerable. The rider is thrown forward and it is the head that hits the ground first. As a result, the brain is seriously damaged, he says. “We have had plenty of such cases, especially at night when the visibility is poor. These spots are not demarcated, nor do they have reflective lights placed around them,” he says.

The main reason for raised manhole covers is that the BWSSB anticipates the roads to be asphalted and raised, and so raise the level of the manholes beforehand. There would be no problem if they matched the level of the manholes with the level of the road.  

The BWSSB claims it recently patched up 9,883 protruding manholes, and there are no hazardous manholes left.

“The city has 2.4 lakh manholes and all of them are maintained at regular intervals. The replacement of damaged manhole covers is done as and when the BBMP’s road work is completed,” says Kemparamaiah, BWSSB engineer-in-chief.

He says protruding manholes are immediately attended to on thoroughfares but there may be some that need fixing in the city’s interior areas.

Sometimes, the BWSSB runs out of manhole covers and construction material, and that causes delays. “The size of the manhole rings differs from one place to another,” he explains.

Kemparamaiah says the cost of replacing a manhole cover is between Rs 2,000 and Rs 10,000. “It depends on the labour cost and material,” he says.

Despite the medical evidence, Kemparamaiah says road accidents are not caused by protruding manhole covers. He says poor lighting could be one of many causes of accidents attributed to badly designed manhole covers.

“But if a protruding manhole cover is the cause of an accident or death we will take full responsibility for it,” he says.

Not our job to fix them, says BBMP

A senior executive engineer in BBMP says raised manholes appear when BWSSB officials increase the level of the manhole presuming the road will be tarred to that height. “The asphalting of roads is done only once in four or five years. Even if we do lay the road on top of the existing one, the level is raised only by a an inch and a half. It is the BWSSB’s job to ensure the manhole top matches the level of the road,” he says.

Manholes are levelled by BBMP only when there is a comprehensive development plan like TenderSURE. “Otherwise, regular maintenance is done by the BWSSB,” he says.

See a hazardous manhole?

Report it on this WhatsApp number: 87622 28888. It is manned by the BWSSB, which promises to attend to citizen complaints promptly.

Traffic concerns

Additional Commissioner (Traffic) P Harishekaran says the traffic police have repeatedly alerted BWSSB officials about the problem.

“We have identified 25 such protruding manhole tops and are in the process of identifying more. We have written to the BBMP and the BWSSB about the potential hazards,” says Harishekaran. “Uneven surfaces on the road can cause grievous injuries and damage to vehicles.”

Raised manholes are a hindrance to smooth movement of vehicles. Motorists break abruptly and risk being hit from behind, he says.

BWSSB ignorant

A road must never have uneven surfaces, says Prof J M Chandra Kishen, professor, Department of Civil Engineering, Indian Institute of Science.

“The level of the manhole should never be lifted as and when the road is re-tarred. With increasing instances of people talking on the phone when riding, two-wheeler riders are likely to hit against them and lose their balance. This could prove fatal. When roads are laid, the height of the manhole should also be considered. Interdepartmental coordination is key to ensuring such problems don’t arise,” he says.