Concentration of cement factories and limestone mines major cause of road damage

Allotment of 157.37 crore by the State Government for repairing roads in Ariyalur and Perambalur districts where a number of cement factories and limestone mines operate could not have come at a better time.

Potholes abound along most of the arterial roads in these districts. Setting right, the damaged portion of the roads to the extent of 78.8 km with the funds was welcome. But, in the absence of maintenance, the condition of the roads would turn back to square one in a matter of weeks, causing huge loss to the exchequer.

The unbridled movement of heavy cement and limestone laden lorries was a major cause for the poor condition of roads, social activists say.

The public are unhappy with the officials for not keeping a tab on the cargo hauled by these lorries. When the roads designed for light commercial vehicles and buses bear the brunt of the heavy tonnage loads, they get damaged soon. As a result, local bodies are under perennial pressure to earmark substantial money for carrying out repair works.

In 2008, three cement companies provided Rs. 25 lakh to the Ariyalur district administration for strengthening of roads after members of the public raised a demand to that effect at the discussion of city development plan. But, it was only a one-time payment.

The district administration and the local bodies have been spending crores of rupees every year for maintaining the roads.

According to Balakrishnan, a social activist who heads an all-party forum for development of Ariyalur district says, though the media keeps highlighting the issue frequently, a permanent solution has been elusive. When roads are re-laid, their quality must match to that of the national highways.

A strict load limit must be imposed on the lorry operators, Mr. Balakrishnan emphasised.

N.S. Jeyakumar, former secretary of the Ariyalur Bar Association, urged the district administration to hold the contractors answerable if damages develop on newly re-laid roads.

Officials must not be found wanting in monitoring the quality of the works the contractors undertake, he said.

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