How serious are PWD, NHIDCL about road repair and maintenance?
The Assam Government plans to construct 18,094 km of pucca road and convert 1,705 wooden bridges to RCC bridges.
CM takes up issue of repair and maintenance of national highways eight times with Union Minister
GUWAHATI: The Assam Government plans to construct 18,094 km of pucca road and convert 1,705 wooden bridges to RCC bridges. Out of these 1,705 bridges, the construction of a total 1,085 RCC bridges will be funded by the World Bank. While these steps will bolster infrastructure development of the State, repair and maintenance of roads remain a major concern.
Whether in Guwahati, lower Assam or upper Assam, most stretches of roads under the Public Works Department (PWD), National Highways and Infrastructure Development Corporation Limited (NHIDCL) and the National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) are non-motorable. This is because the roads are not repaired when small cracks appear on the surface of the roads. Gradually these cracks widen and over time, potholes are developed. Today, most of the roads are riddled with potholes. This would not have been the situation if the authorities concerned had repaired the small cracks on time.
In Assam, 55,378 km of roads are under the PWD and 3,882 km under the NHAI and NHIDCL. The PWD road network comprises 2,540 km of State highways; 4,309 km of major district roads; 46,789 km of rural roads; and 1,738 km of urban roads. Some of the rural and urban roads have been constructed under the Panchayat and Rural Development department, the Pradhan Mantri Gram Sadak Yojana (PMGSY) and also under local bodies like municipal boards.
When the question of road repair is raised, PWD officials are quick to cite a shortage of funds as the reason why roads are not repaired on time. They claim that the department does not have funds for repairing roads. They also cite some technical problems due to which they cannot carry out the repair work. Sources said that if the authorities concerned nip the problem in the bud by repairing the small cracks on the roads, it will save the public from a lot of inconvenience as they will not have to navigate through pothole-riddled roads later. Moreover, when roads become completely non-motorable, the government has to spend a lot of money blacktopping large stretches of road. The government can avoid this expenditure by carrying out small repair works when the roads get damaged initially.
Sources said that the Chief Minister has taken serious note of this issue of road repair and maintenance. The Mukhya Mantrir Path Nobikaran Achani (MMPNA) has been launched under which fund will be allotted for PWD offices to carry out road repair works. However, sources said, “The money will be given to the PWD offices only once. But the PWD has to do repair works all through the year. This fund will not suffice.”
Sources further said that the roads being constructed in the State have a Defect Liability Period (DLP) of 3-4 years. During this period, the construction companies are responsible for the maintenance of the roads. After the expiry of the DLP, the department concerned must look after the maintenance of the roads.
Sources added that the departments concerned cite the rainy season as an excuse to not take up repair works. “But there is not continuous rainfall. During the days when there is no rainfall, small repair works can be done,” said sources.
The national highways are not under the jurisdiction of the State Government. Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has taken up the issue of repair and maintenance of national highways with the Union Minister for Road Transport & Highways eight times. As per rule, when road expansion projects are taken up on national highways, it is the responsibility of the construction companies to ensure that the service roads remain motorable. However, this rule is not strictly followed by construction companies in Assam. Consequently, most of the service roads along the national highways are non-motorable and in a deplorable condition.
The government should put in place a proper mechanism to monitor the maintenance and repair of roads and facilitate the smooth flow of funds for road repair works. Unless these bottlenecks are removed, road repair and maintenance will continue to remain a concern.