Fixing B’luru’s 15,000 Potholes in 15 Days is Counter-Productive

The repair method and material used does not have a record of being durable.

4 min read

The not-so-durable material used to fill potholes will only make a hole in taxpayers’ pockets without a lasting results. (Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)

Karnataka Chief Minister Siddaramaiah has given 15 days to the Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP) to fill more than 15,000 potholes in Bengaluru. While the project comes as a relief for Bengalureans who have been suffering bad roads, according to experts this ad-hoc measure will not make life easy for the commuters in the long run.

The work is being carried out in a hurry by civic authorities, and the repair method and material used does not have a record of being durable either. This raises questions whether the money and effort invested by the government is really worth it.


Not Every Hole in the Road Is a Pothole

The BBMP has identified over 15,000 potholes in the city; however, the definition of a pothole differs between the common man and the BBMP. For the BBMP, a pothole is different from a bad stretch of road.

According to the civic authority, a pothole is “a hollowed-out depression in the road surface. It is a type of failure in the pavement caused by ingress of water through surface cracks or side entry and pressure of vehicular movement.”

So, as per BBMP’s standards, only a crack or depression on a road, which is in a good condition in other parts, is a pothole. However, if there are several potholes or craters on a single stretch of road, it is considered a bad road, which requires complete re-asphalting and not just filling potholes.

When the civic body says they are going to fill 15,000 potholes, it may not necessity mean that all roads in the city will be smoother within 15 days.

The Hot Mix vs Cold Mix

Even for those potholes which would get repaired, the filling method used is not the most durable one.

There are two ways of filling a pothole – using a hot mix and cold mix. In the cold mix, an emulsion of jelly is used to fill the pothole. The jelly is pressed hard against the pothole, flattening the road’s surface.

A potholed road in Bengaluru. <i>(Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)</i>
A potholed road in Bengaluru. (Photo: The Quint)

Using the the hot mix method, jelly and asphalt are heated up to 150 degrees celsius and then kept in a temperature of 100 degrees. This mix is poured over the pothole and allowed to settle in. Hot mix is considered more effective and durable than cold mix because of the difference in material used.

As Bengaluru has been witnessing showers almost every day, fixing the road using hot mix is not possible, says BBMP. According to experts, the cold mix is a quick fix rather than a permanent solution to the problem.


Fixing Drains is Vital For Roads

Addressing the problem of storm water drains and implementing good practices in road construction are important in fixing the pothole issue, say experts.

It is common sense that water is the biggest enemy for roads. If water accumulates in any part of the road, it will result in the road cracking. Our storm water drain system is flawed; if it rains for more than an hour, our roads are flooded. Until we fix this problem, there will be puddles on the road, making filling potholes an annual ritual.
V Ravichandar, a prominent urban expert

He added that defective road construction damages the roads in the city. According to him, every road should have a slop, which would take water to the storm water drain and won’t allow water to stagnate on the road. However, except roads constructed in recent times, most contractors have not followed these geometrical parameters.

Only Two Machines for Entire City

(Photo: <b>The Quint</b>)
(Photo: The Quint)

The city administration has deployed two ‘Python’ machines to fix the potholes in Bengaluru. The machines can clear the pothole’s surface, cut out edges, and create a deep cavity for the asphalt mix to be poured in. The machines are capable of carrying out precise work; however, with the extraordinary number of potholes in the city, the machines can only be limited help.

According to experts, when repair work is carried out manually, merely filling the potholes with a mix is not enough. Vivek Menon, member of Centre for Infrastructure, Sustainable Transportation and Urban Planning, Indian Institute of Sciences, said that depending on the size of the potholes, the process of filling them should be different.

“The Python may work potholes that are 1-metre by 1-metre. But, most of the other roads, where craters have been formed, the entire surface will have to be scrapped off and underlying layers have to be stabilised before covering it. Unfortunately, this is not happening in this drive,” he said.


Hurried Work a Recipe for Corruption

According to a former member of the Technical Advisory Committee of the BBMP, any work undertaken in a hurry or on war-footing is ineffective. Apart from the lack of efficiency in the work, the normal process of tendering a work takes a back seat in such cases.

“If a proper tender has to be called for filling these potholes, it would take close to a month. But, in this case, as work is being undertaken in a crisis, the processes are relaxed. A closer look into who is undertaking these repair works for the BBMP and what is the cost of the project is needed,” the former member of the TAC pointed out.

At the end of 15 days, whether all the potholes in the city will be filled is a matter of speculation. However, experts agree that the work which is being undertaken at present will be rendered useless. Only planned repair of the roads can solve the issue, they said.

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