It is seriously worrying that the top 5 Google search results for the word “pothole”, excluding the link to the dictionary meaning, are links to Bangalore related news. According to a conservative government estimate, Bangalore is home to about 4000 potholes with varying degrees of hazard associated with them. Indeed, last September one such pothole claimed the life of a young woman when she suffered head injuries due to a fall. While calculating the cost of a life is nearly impossible, there are other costs associated with potholes that can be estimated.
First, there is the cost of slow moving traffic that leads to loss of productive hours. Let us assume that each pothole adds 1 second to the time taken to cover a particular stretch of road, and also that only half of the 50 lakh vehicles in Bangalore are on road each day. If, on an average, there are two people traveling in each of these 25 lakh vehicles and each vehicle crosses only ten potholes in a day (one only wishes!), then a quick back of the envelope calculation tells us that roughly 14000 productive person hours are lost each day. Even with the minimum wage of Rs. 160 per day, this amounts to a loss of Rs. 22.4 lakh everyday.
Secondly, if we are to believe the report that potholes mess up a person’s spine then we must add the cost of medical care. Let us say that Rs. 0.1 per pothole gets added to the eventual medical bills that a person will incur when the disastrous health effects become apparent to the person. This makes Rs. 1 worth of extra medical cost per person per day, which amounts to an expenditure of 50 lakh per day for the 50 lakh people traveling in those 25 lakh vehicles.
Thus, the total cost of 4000 potholes is Rs. 47.4 lakh per day, which translates to Rs. 1185 per pothole per day. And we are not even speaking of any environmental costs, or of money spent towards extra petrol for slow moving traffic, or of wear and tear of vehicles, and above all of the accidents which these potholes inevitably cause.
In the light of these estimates, one can say that BBMP has made perhaps the wisest investment in the Python machine, which it has imported from Canada for Rs. 3.5 crores for the purpose of quickly repairing potholes. This machine practically pays for itself in under 8 days from the moment Bangalore becomes free of this menace. Now only if authorities can fill up these holes faster than they appear on our roads.
Nidhi Gupta is a Programme Manager at the Takshashila Institution and tweets at @nidhi1902.