For the creation of a new colony, town, city or gaining access to an existing hamlet, network and quality of road connectivity is one of the basic requirements. Inter and intra area all weather accessibility defines the degree of ease of life. Operability of roads assumes much importance in the wake of calamities force majeure, accidental and medical emergencies.
As per Indian Road Congress in the Ministry of Road Transport & Highways there may be roads with a width of 3 metres for multi-lane, 3.75 metres for single lane, 5 metres for intermediate lane, 7 metres for double lane, 7.5 metres for double lane with a divider, 23.5 metres for four lane and 43.6 metres for six lane.
Repairs & maintenance is a normal feature to make roads objective worthy. For this human capital being already a must, mechanical equipment and the material resource such as earth, bajri, soling, dust etc., for filling, leveling and macadamisation for capping the dressed surface are equally urgent requirements to be worked upon.
As everything faces depreciation and decay, roads are no exception to this inevitable natural phenomenon. The events like earthquakes, floods, vagaries of nature in the form of extreme heat & cold, flash floods, oft fluctuating temperatures besides plying of vehicular traffic- heavy, medium, small, effect the condition of roads.
The volume and the rate of damage or destruction are correlated with the degree and the frequency of such happenings. The more the degree and frequency of events the greater the quantum of damages demanding reciprocal remedies quickly.
Usage of sub-standard material, insufficient material, ratio of material mix, execution at a point of time occurring through technical and non-technical implementing hands are other contributories to their durability or vulnerability to early damages and the volume of defacement.
Since most of the area of J&K is uneven topographically, varying metrologically, and seismologically falling in zone five, roads suffer on three fronts accordingly. The suffered roads also cost up badly by way of huge, early damages and depreciation to our vehicles than normally expected.
With the exception of roads in five districts of Udhampur, Jammu, Reasi, Kathua and Samba where there is hot climate throughout the year suiting the black-topped roads, the remaining districts of J & K feature a different mix of extremely hot and cold weather.
As cold weather is detrimental to macadam that gets cracked and later on uprooted thereby leaving no permanent & reliable option for macadamisation save reinforced cement concrete roads for which the hot weather works similarly.
However, recourse to this refuge is too costly to be adopted in general barring exceptional circumstances. Moreover, with the precedence of administrative set up waking up belatedly, for whatever reasons, to general and common public issues also plays its part of not having a stitch in time to save nine.
When any symptoms of development of any pot holes, puddles, bumps, cracks, defacement, removal of macadam, etc, surface up, due to any reasons, and become visible, the things initially requiring little attention & small expenditure go unnoticed till these turn into big tasks demanding massive effort, expenditure and time coupled with discomfort till redemption. More often than not instead of mending reasonably the effected patches and areas the whole of the road is proposed for undertaking repairs. The work if ever taken up and whenever completed consequently raises the level of the road.
The oft raised roads pose two problems. One severe to the structures of the residency that stand nearer to the road. Their structural strength comes under constant threat through air and road vibrations.
The privacy becomes prone to comprise with noise/fuel/dust and sight pollution playing irritant to eyes/ears/body and the road rain water inundating the houses as well dampens the plinths & the basements.
The other is to public exchequer that has to shoulder the burden of all kinds of costs and resources to mend the road wrongs. For performing actually a minor/repair work which now classifies a new work a plenty of truck loads of clay and soling/bajri are needed.
To have the requisite supplies kareva lands in plains and the quarry stones in mountains/hills and hillocks get involved. Hands lay on these resources for extraction to the extent of exploitation despite the fact that these treasures are already under strain for extraction of material for other works of construction.
Whereas Governments from time to time have banned the extraction of clay and stones from the prohibited spots to retain and preserve these yet leakages in contravention of directives continue to erode and disturb the land mass. The resources are thus on the wane on daily basis for which general public too is to blame. The wanton use of such resource is unendurable for permanently fixed physical resources have a dead end.
This, however, does not mean that roads should not be raised, leveled or repaired & maintained in case these sink, submerge under rain water, or crack due to any reasons. These are to be laid and maintained. In this inevitable necessity engineers concerned have a greater role to play.
A realistic detailed design & technical estimate of the work and resources required has to be prepared, duly authenticated by the higher competent technical authority for obtaining concurrence of administrative and the financial authorities concerned which should respond positively and quickly. In case a number of pot holes or bumps have developed it looks advisable to dig the road, tear it up, extirpate and disjoint the old mix first. Mix up the uprooted material afresh with addition of new material required for filling up the space.
Proper roller dressing before and after black topping may be subsequent steps to make the road again traffic worthy. Plastic roads may be an alternative which are considered to be cost-effective, durable and almost with nil or meager maintenance cost. It can assuage the problem of disposal of much of the waste, save avoidable depletion of resources.
To sustain the naturally gifted resources for a longer period and not crash into the stage of importing stones & earth mounds, a well planned approach in consonance with engineering parameters has to be resorted to at every level of construction, repairs & maintenance. Every kind of material is to be used appropriately avoiding wrong substitutions and minimising depletion of resources constantly pressurized by population explosion.
The author is a former Sr. Audit Officer and Consultant in the A.G’s Office Srinagar.
Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are the personal opinions of the author.
The facts, analysis, assumptions and perspective appearing in the article do not reflect the views of GK.