A few years ago, an artist based in Bengaluru created a video of a ‘moon exploration’ that featured him mimicking a moonwalk in the ‘lunar landscape’ of Bengaluru’s pothole-filled roads. This was his way of drawing attention to the poor road conditions in the city. From lighting lamps around potholes to quirky photos of potholes, citizens have found innovative ways to express their displeasure about the condition of public roads.
According to the latest government data, between 2018 and 2020, 5,626 people died as a result of road accidents caused by potholes. When it comes to the number of potholes on roads, Mumbai and Bengaluru are among the cities with the highest numbers, putting the safety of their citizens at risk.
India’s pothole problem is a major issue that affects the safety and mobility of millions of people. The problem is not only restricted to a few states, but it is a nationwide issue. Potholes are not only dangerous, but they are also a major source of frustration and inconvenience for commuters.
Potholes are caused by a variety of factors, including poor quality of construction materials, lack of proper maintenance and repair, heavy rainfall, and high traffic volume. Additionally, many Indian roads are not built to withstand the weight of heavy commercial vehicles, which can cause damage to the road surface over time.
Fixing India’s pothole problem is a complex issue that requires a multifaceted approach and it’s a collective effort.
Looking beyond traditional construction methods
Although technology has been widely used in many industries, it has not been widely adopted in the field of road infrastructure and repairs. Using the right technology has the potential to greatly improve the efficiency and effectiveness of pothole repair work, reducing maintenance costs and improving the safety of roads for all users.
However, many municipalities are still using the age-old methods of gravel and cement to fix potholes. Very recently in Bengaluru, a road made with 3000kg of plastic waste was constructed using GridMats. It’s eco-friendly, durable and crafted entirely from 100% recycled plastic waste.
It consumes 30 percent less water than traditional concrete roads and it does not require any steel reinforcement. Traditional concrete road technology would have emitted 46.5-tonne of carbon dioxide emissions to complete this construction, however these roads made with recycled plastic emit only 11.9-tonne — a significant reduction when compared to the conventional method.
Need for a PPP-P (Public Private and People Partnership) model
The Public-Private Partnership (PPP) model is a widely used and popular approach in which a government entity and a private sector entity collaborate to provide public assets and/or services. Under this model, the private entity makes investments for a specific period of time and is commonly used for completing large-scale government projects such as roads, bridges, and hospitals. National highways are an example of a successful PPP model, which contributes to their superior quality and maintenance.
Highway roads are typically less populated, with only a few convenience stores and fuel stations and are primarily used for transportation from one point to another. In contrast, city roads are bustling with activity, hosting residences, commercial establishments, offices, and restaurants, which are visited by many people. Additionally, city roads serve as a primary means of transportation for citizens. All these elements are closely linked, forming an active and cohesive community.
In this context, the role of the fourth ‘P’, people, becomes crucial in building long-term sustainable and safe cities. The PPPP (Public-Private-People-Partnership) model emphasises making ‘sustainability’ a reality by involving all stakeholders in the process.
It is essential that citizens groups take an active role in monitoring the condition of roads and working with civic authorities to ensure that they are safe and well-maintained. One way to achieve this is through the adoption of certain sections of roads by individuals, groups, or organisations living or operating in that area, in collaboration with local civic bodies. This kind of partnership ensures that citizens are actively engaged and motivated to work towards a common objective.
Furthermore, Companies, as part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility), can also take on the responsibility of maintaining a certain section of road. Simple tasks such as garbage clearance, maintaining cleanliness of road signs, reflectors and pavements can be taken up by bodies such as apartment associations or schools. Involving children in these activities can also help in fostering a sense of responsibility and accountability among them.
As these activities become more prevalent, it will inspire confidence in citizens and encourage more people to take ownership. People will be more mindful of their actions, follow rules, and abide by the law. When people lead by example, it is likely to motivate the government to formulate better policies, enforce rules strictly, and improve governance. This, in turn, will lead to a healthier and more efficient ecosystem.
In conclusion, fixing India’s pothole problem is a crucial step towards ensuring the safety and mobility of millions of people. The problem affects cities and rural areas alike and it’s a key cause of road accidents. To address this issue, we need a multipronged approach that includes adoption of newer technology, increasing funding for road maintenance, streamlining communication between municipal bodies and the public.
Additionally, involving citizens, through the Public-Private-People-Partnership model can help in creating sustainable and safe cities. By taking these steps, we can significantly improve the condition of India’s roads and make them safer for everyone.
The author is Director, PotHoleRaja is a social venture focussing on road safety.
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