It’s been a month since the ultimatum set by the PWD Minister to begin roadworks lapsed

It has been more than a month since the deadline set for the Public Works Department (PWD) to begin roadworks lapsed. Yet, most roads maintained by the agency in the city and its suburbs are still in a state of disrepair.

It was in mid-August this year that a slew of protests led PWD Minister V.K. Ebrahim Kunju to set September 10 as the deadline for repairing pothole-ridden roads.

Major roads in the city were in a state of dilapidation owing to the PWD’s failure to resurface them before the monsoon. Numerous crucial roads suffered extensive damage in the rains. Matters were made worse by the Kerala Water Authority (KWA), which had dug up roads in the second half of May to lay pipelines.

Contractors blamed

Today, the city’s prime Park Avenue Road that stretches from Broadway to Rajendra Maidan, is among the worst maintained roads. PWD officials said the contract to resurface the road was awarded to M.S. Abraham, months before the onset of rains.

“He did practically nothing before and during the summer months. It was at the eleventh hour, the last week of May, that pothole filling began. Within days, rains began and work was abandoned. The last-minute roadworks worsened Park Avenue Road’s condition and potholes became wider, deeper.”

Hundreds of commuters who regularly used the road were inconvenienced.

Contractor Aji Abraham had deployed workers to resurface Palarivattom-Kakkanad Road late in May, but work was postponed once the rains arrived.

Though a few potholes were filled in September, motorists continue to endure a gruelling ride through the stretch that leads from the city to Collectorate, Infopark, CEPZ, etc.

On Alinchuvadu-Vennala Road, which runs parallel to NH Bypass, motorists have to endure a back-breaking ride. Contractor K.K. Shamsu resurfaced it in May, but the fresh coat was washed away in the rain. He is yet to launch roadworks, though the rain has taken a break.

There is a strong demand from residents’ associations, merchants’ organisations, private bus owners’ associations and NGOs to blacklist contractors who have failed to resurface roads. However, higher-ups in the PWD have failed to take action.

The agency’s Ernakulam executive engineer P. P. Benny said laying bituminous macadam on Civil Line Road that leads to Kakkanad would soon be completed. He blamed intermittent rain for the delay in resurfacing work.

However, complaints are rife that contractors failed to mobilise their workforce and tar coat damaged portions when it did not rain in September.

Mr. Benny blamed the KWA for its indifference in restoring dug-up roads in Fort Kochi, Tripunithura and Vypeen. “Roadworks in Vypeen will begin soon. GIDA has handed over Rs.3 crore. The total cost is Rs.12 crore.”

Another PWD official said full-fledged resurfacing work might begin only in November.

“A few contractors are ill-equipped, inefficient and not serious about their work. They must be blacklisted. Most of them do not have their own workforce and depend on sub-contractors. This causes delay.”

Sources said approach roads to Edappally bridge could be resurfaced by the PWD-NH wing only if the government gave administrative sanction this month for the Rs.2 crore-work.

Stir called off

The PWD’s failure to repair the broken Chitoor-Cheranaloor Road prompted private bus workers’ unions to call for strike from Thursday. However, the unions have put their plans on hols after District Collector Sheikh Pareeth and Hibi Eden, MLA, assured them that the stretch would be repaired in two weeks.

“The PWD has not begun repairs despite the KWA handing over Rs.50 lakh,” said Joy Joseph of the AITUC.

Strike in Tripunithura

Meanwhile, bus workers in Tripunithura have called for a strike from October 21 over the PWD’s ineptitude in repairing damaged roads in Tiruvankulam.

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