White topping: faulty, disastrous

White topping

The latest fad that drives the authorities in Bengaluru — the government, the BBMP and the BDA — is the white-topping of the city’s roads. It is a faulty project, and will have a disastrous impact on its life and health. Every city is as good or as bad as its roads. They are the veins and arteries through which the city’s life flows and when they harden, the citizens’ life is blocked, arrested or inconvenienced. White-topping is a fancy word given to the conversion of the city’s asphalted roads into concrete stretches, and the past few months have shown that it is a wrongly conceived, badly planned and poorly executed idea. There is no good reason for it, and it has been proved that every excuse in its defence is a bad argument. Financially, administratively, and most importantly, in terms of its impact on the citizens’ civic rights, it is a largely unacceptable idea. 

Work started on white-topping 94.5 km of roads in some of the city’s central areas at a cost of Rs 986 crore last year, and five months after the deadline, just 15 % of the work has been done. Undeterred, the BBMP is extending the project to 41 more roads in the heart of the city and to the Peripheral Ring Road. According to experts, concrete roads are at least five times as expensive as asphalted roads without commensurate benefits. The claim that maintenance cost is less is wrong and misleading. The way the concrete roads are laid in Bengaluru, their repair and maintenance will actually cost more. The concrete is laid on top of the existing road, raising its level by at least six inches. Houses will have to be raised to a higher level, utilities get affected, drains become clogged and localities become flood-prone. The work causes inconvenience and disruption everywhere, especially when it is delayed. Long delays have been the norm till now, and residents are helpless victims.

The world over only highways between cities are done in concrete. Concreting is not considered right for small roads within cities. It is wasteful expenditure, causes inconvenience to the public and is even dangerous for the road user. The city is an organic whole of the roads, the trees that line them and the houses by their side. White-topping breaks this link and creates a concrete grid over the city, choking it. The nature of vehicles and even the idea of roads may change in the next few years, and so should an unchanging road be laid for the next 30-40 years? Politicians and bureaucrats love big projects like white-topping, but it is not in public interest and should be stopped. 

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White topping: faulty, disastrous

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