The reluctance of the National Highways Authority of India’s (NHAI) Kochi unit to repair dilapidated portions of Aroor-Edappally NH 47 Bypass during the rains has landed it in the soup.
The agency’s Palakkad unit repaired a good share of potholes on the Edappally-Aluva stretch using cold mix bitumen – a technology ideal for repairing potholes during rains — within the deadline set by the district administration.
The inability of the Kochi unit to repair the Bypass has resulted in the District Collector issuing a notice to the NHAI’s Kochi project director warning that criminal proceedings would be initiated against the agency within a week.
With traffic hold ups and accidents becoming the norm along the busy 16-km stretch, the Collector has threatened action under Section 133 of CrPC.
The Collector has also warned of the invoking of Section 188 of IPC, punishment for disobedience to order issued by a public servant, an offence which attracts imprisonment and fine.
The NHAI has failed to act despite the traffic police sending reminders to it. The NHAI’s lethargy in repairing potholes in front of Gold Souk Grande Mall in Vyttila prompted the police’s Special Branch-CID to launch a probe into how the highway gave away so easily during the rainy season.
“There is a noticeable fall in number of accidents on the Edappally-Aluva NH after potholes were filled, while there is no let up in accidents and chaos on the Aroor-Edappally NH,” said P.P. Shams, Assistant Commissioner of Edappally Traffic Police.
Alarmed at the pandemonium along the stretch and the NHAI’s purported helplessness, the PWD had recently warned of taking over the upkeep of the stretch and also collection of toll.
As matters stand, road users are critical of the NHAI inviting tenders for repair works late in July, two months after the monsoon began. The agency is yet to shortlist a contractor.
Cold mix bitumen
Responding to how the NHAI repaired a good share of potholes on the Edappally-Aluva NH, the agency’s Palakkad project director P. Ramanathan said 50 bags of cold mix bitumen, each containing 25 kg of the material, was used for the purpose.
“Potholes were filled with gravel and topped with the material to a height of 2 to 3 cm. The material needs less than an hour to get set and thus traffic is not affected. Though each bag cost Rs. 4,000, the adoption of the technology has prevented potholes from becoming bigger and causing accidents,” he said.
On why the NHAI was not adopting the technology for the Aroor-Edappally stretch, the agency’s Kochi project director C.T. Abraham said the concessionaire (the agency entrusted with maintaining the stretch) was free to adopt any method for restoring roads.
“Till recently the NHAI was directly maintaining the stretch and we were not permitted to use cold mix bitumen.
“Now, an operation, maintenance, tolling (OMT) agreement has been signed with Cochin Tollways Private Ltd. for ensuring upkeep of the stretch. Though the firm is free to adopt any technology, they have not yet taken over the road and this has led to the stalemate.”
Except for filling a few potholes with tar and construction debris following public outcry, the NHAI has not initiated measures against the firm for the delay in taking over maintenance and repair works of the busy NH Bypass and allied infrastructure.