Heavy rainfall has exposed the folly of concreting roads without first building drains and footpaths. The lack of planning is glaring.
Minister for Urban Development S. Suresh Kumar, in a meeting earlier this month, was told by Deputy Commissioner V. Ponnuraj that residents had no problems with the roads, although issues relating to the absence of drains and footpaths had been raised.
To this, the Minister asked why the Mangalore City Corporation had not built drains and footpaths while the roads were being concreted. “Usually, these works go hand in hand, and drains are built first,” he said.
Consumer activist Addoor Krishna Rao and Nagarika Hitarakshana Samiti (Mangalore) president G. Hanumantha Kamath hold the corporation responsible for going ahead with concreting work without adequate planning.
Mr. Rao wants to know why the corporation did not acquire land to build drains and footpaths in advance. “Pedestrians have a right to footpaths just as motorists have a right to drive on roads.”
Mr. Rao says that the corporation authorities should have first shifted utility lines, and then built drains and footpaths before concreting the roads.
Mr. Kamath says that there has been a delay in completing work on many roads, although it started six months ago. “There is an unholy alliance between officials and contractors,” he alleges. “Otherwise why can't they make contractors complete the work at the earliest?”
He points out that without completing the stretch between Navbharath Circle and City Centre on K.S. Rao Road, the corporation had begun concreting the stretch between PVS Circle and Navbharath Circle. “This indicates that the corporation does not care about planning,” he says.
Corporation executive engineer G.V. Rajashekar attributes the delay to the acquisition of land. Owners of roadside properties are not parting with their land. This was the case with the Bejai Church-Lalbagh Road, K.S. Rao Road Shivabagh-Bendoorwell Road and Kadri Kambala Road, Mr. Rajashekar says. The engineer says that the civic body has decided to go ahead with the concreting process first, “[because] we thought that after seeing the concrete roads, people will change their attitude and willagree to part with their land”.
As foreseen, there is a change in attitude, he says. “Negotiations are on with landowners.”
“Mr. Rajashekar's statement is partially correct,” says the former Mayor M. Shankar Bhat, during whose tenure the work began.
He says that contractors' unwillingness to take up work on drains and footpaths has also contributed to the delay. “We have been forced to invite bids three times for works on Lalbagh-Bejai-Circuit House Road,” he says.MCC Commissioner K.N. Vijayaprakash says that henceforth only integrated bids will be invited.
The corporation has invited bids to build drains and footpaths on 11 roads at an estimated cost of Rs. 4.26 crore.
Bids will also be invited for drains and footpaths on nine other major roads at an estimated cost of Rs. 22.6 crore, he says.
“Our priority is to convince people to part with their properties for roadworks. So far, we have taken 8.5 acres of land for different roadworks through negotiations,” he says. “Going in for legal acquisition is the last choice; people should cooperate with us.”