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Tag Archives | BBMP

How much for that pothole?

Pothole

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.

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It’s the governance, stupid!

By Nidhi Gupta and Varun Santhosh

The recent spate of citizen protests in Bangalore is a symptom of the deep governance deficit in the city

The tech-savvy residents of the outer regions of Bangalore are increasingly taking to public protests to voice their discontent with the myriad infrastructure problems that beset their neighbourhoods. These problems are symptomatic of the underlying issues arising out of a myopic vision and a deficit (sometimes bordering on absence) of governance. As long as the state government and the city’s administrators remain mired in a cycle of firefighting, band-aid fixes and peddling ‘white-elephant’ projects as grand solutions, the protests will only spread and improving the livability of India’s Silicon Valley will remain a distant dream.

Residents of Sarjapur and Bellandur, along the Outer Ring Road(ORR), staged a protest yesterday to highlight their infrastructural woes. A fortnight ago, in a protest with a clarion call to “Save Whitefield“, around 10,000 residents of Whitefield, a suburb that is host to most of the IT companies, got together to form a human chain that stretched for 10 kilometres. The tipping point that mobilised the otherwise docile professionals was school children being stuck in traffic for almost 3 hours on their way back home. This followed similar other protests in Whitefield and HSR Layout in the past two months. Such vocal demonstrations by a section of the citizens bring to fore the issues plaguing the city and accentuate the extent of discomfort that people and businesses endure on a daily basis. But the response it garnered from the government is revealing. It ranged from half-hearted midnight operations to asphalt roads, hours before the protest, blaming different agencies for dug-up roads to mooting the idea of tunnel ring roads.

As pointed out earlier (by Pavan and Karthik), Bangalore has not only seen a rapid growth from about 200 sqkm to around 709.5 sqkm, but a failure of infrastructure and governance to catch up with such growth. The recently released BBMP restructuring report prepared by  a 3-member expert committee, points out that the existing 198 wards in the BBMP area demarcated in 2007 were based on the 2001 census. From 2001-11, the city expanded by 44.6 per cent, one of the highest in its comparable class in the world. During the same period, while the inner core areas grew by about 18 per cent, the outer regions expanded by more than 100 per cent. The report further states that 43 wards have a population more than 50,000 (based on 2011 Census) and the largest ward, Horamavu, is well over 1.1 lakhs at the moment. Compare this to the ward size recommended to be fixed ideally between 20,000 for the outer growth areas and 30,000 for the inner city areas.

Coming back to one of the main triggers of the protests – traffic. It is a norm in Whitefield and ORR regions for people to waste many productive hours negotiating traffic pileups. While narrow roads, potholes, lack of pavements, etc. contribute to the traffic jams, the primary issue, especially in Whitefield, is that the suburb has only two access points and no alternate routes. This nightmare scenario could have been averted had the city administration planned a more robust road network with multi-modal public transport options like commuter rail and bus rapid transit systems when it was wooing IT companies to set up shop. Furthermore, the problems not only stop at bad planning, but also extend to haphazard announcements of one-ways and arbitrary banning of U-turns leading to circuitous routes.

Consider the other perennial problem of lethal potholes in Bangalore. There are two parts to this problem — one, why do potholes appear in the first place and two, why are they not fixed? The first problem arises due to poor quality control in road-building practices and the utter lack of coordination between various civic departments such as the BWSSB, BESCOM, BSNL and BBMP that results in repeated mutilation of newly laid roads. The re-emergence of potholes can be blamed on patchwork repairs carried out with substandard materials. It is quintessentially the government’s way of trying to placate its frustrated citizens after each round of rains. To make matters worse, the administrators repeatedly slip on their self-declared deadlines of making the city pothole free. In short, there is neither sound planning nor a well-managed process.

Another classic case of the administration caught napping is the garbage issue that has dogged the erstwhile ‘garden city’ for the past many years.  Since 2012, the protests of villagers against landfills in their backyards, has moved from Mavalipura to Mandur to most recently, Bingipura. The response of the various governments, including spending 329 crores in the year 2013-14, has hardly changed the situation on the ground. The policy-making space has been ceded so much that the judiciary has continuously overstepped its mandate to propose tender rules for new contracts on waste management, to the latest 2-bin-1-bag ruling. The story follows a similar trajectory on the issue of degradation of lakes. Is it any surprise then that protests continue to arise at a frequent basis in Bangalore?

The solutions to these myriad problems exist. Many civic organizations, activists and experts have lent their time, energy and ideas to fix these issues in Bangalore over the years. The implementation of TenderSURE roads in the Central Business District has lit a beacon of hope. The 2015 BBMP Restructuring Committee’s report addresses most of the chronic problems and recommends a credible roadmap towards a more liveable Bangalore for all its citizens. However, it is yet to gather momentum. Dr. B.R. Ambedkar, in his famous speech during the Constituent Assembly debates said, “I feel, however good a Constitution may be, it is sure to turn out bad because those who are called to work it, happen to be a bad lot”. Similarly, all the good policies and governance mechanisms are doomed to fail, unless the intent and accountability of our policymakers is fixed. 

Nidhi Gupta and Varun Santhosh are Programme Managers at the Takshashila Institution and tweet at @nidhi1902 and @santvarun respectively.

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