Bengaluru has registered above-average rainfall to date. This also correlates with the washing away of road surfaces resulting in more potholes being exposed. The usual blame games then begin among the authorities.
However, there are parts of Bengaluru where this pattern rarely happens. One such area which has consistently bucked this trend of rains leading to potholes, and having good roads in general, is Electronics City – Specifically, the areas managed by the Electronics City Industrial Township Authority (ELCITA).
How does Electronic City ensure good roads?
As any urban planning expert would tell you, issues like poor drainage or bad roads are due to poor or no processes. And this is where ELCITA has managed to outperform its local body counterparts – by having set processes for road management.
Read more: How to get a good road in your neighbourhood
Starting with a good foundation
“The first roads in Electronics City West Phase were laid by L&T in 2002,” according to Lt. Col. Ravindra Singh, CEO of ELCITA. “The foundation was good as L&T studied the ground conditions properly before laying the road. However, some of the other roads we inherited were not good and took a lot more effort for restoration, but we ensured that they were relaid completely.”
ELCITA tenders the work of relaying road stretches as is the norm, through the Karnataka government’s procurement software. “We ensure clear specifications and expectations with the vendors,” says Ravindra Singh.
ELCITA engineers prepare regular Batch Reports (checking each batch of bitumen) to ensure quality parameters like the temperature of bitumen, percentage of bitumen in the aggregate and time when the bitumen was prepared are optimal. ELCITA’s engineers supervise levelling and rolling. Ravindra Singh points out one unique aspect of their process. “The contractor is considered more a partner than a vendor in the process of laying roads.”
Read more: How roads are built in Bengaluru. Or not
Tackling potholes at the source
The ELCITA team’s guiding principle is: that water is the biggest enemy of tar. So the process of maintaining roads starts with ensuring water does not stagnate and seep into the tar anywhere. To ensure this, the following steps are implemented.
- The drains in the area are cleaned regularly, particularly before the start of the rainy season.
- One of the primary causes of blocked drains is the dumping of garbage in them. Strict control is maintained to ensure no such dumping happens. Any stray dumping that might happen around shops is usually cleared soon as the drains are cleaned regularly.
- The drains were initially of stone slab construction, and have since been made deeper with better construction material. Recently, 75 rain-water harvesting pits were installed as part of the drain system. Thus instead of all the water in the drains flowing to rajakaluves, they also get discharged into the groundwater system. This increases the carrying capacity of the drains so that even during extremely heavy rainfall there is no stagnation on the roads.
- The roads are laid to specification and surfaces have gradients to ensure that water does not stagnate in the middle but flows to the sides where the drain inlets are. The terrain is also mostly inclined, preventing water from accumulating anywhere in the area.
- Any potholes that form are proactively tackled to ensure that water doesn’t accumulate in them. Allowing water to stagnate in potholes would make them wider and deeper with time.
I visited the area on a particularly rainy morning and while the roads leading up to Electronics City were pothole-ridden and filled with water, the roads in Electronics City itself were clear of any standing pools of water.
Fixing potholes when they appear
Bitumen, unlike concrete, is a material prone to erosion with wear and tear from usage, and potholes do form over time. ELCITA has a clear process for dealing with potholes. According to Ravindra Singh, “the most important thing about fixing potholes is proactive maintenance. The key is to regularly look for potholes and fix them. That way they can be fixed in their early stages which also ensures fewer potholes.”
ELCITA has partnered with a startup called Road Metrics which provides them with a detailed assessment of the condition of every stretch of their roads. The Road Metrics team drives through all roads in the township every fortnight in their specially-equipped vehicles. They geo-tag the entire route with colour codes indicating the condition of the stretches. Green would mean no defects on the stretch, yellow and orange mean wait and watch, while a deep red would be a defect needing immediate intervention. This data is available on ELCITA’s dashboard, and clicking on a red or orange dot will pull up a picture of the defect on the road, which they can then work on immediately.
For filling potholes, ELCITA has their own in-house team of engineers. “It is cheaper and quicker to fix potholes in-house than raise a separate tender,” says Ravindra Singh. “This also gives us more control over the quality of work being done,” he adds. ”However, if the problems are deeper, we are willing to call in experts to seek solutions.”
What local bodies can learn from this
While Electronics City is a small 900+ acre area, hardly comparable to a body like BBMP’s 800+ square kilometres, there are learnings here. Ensuring pothole-free good roads is not rocket science. It requires a deep commitment to doing the basics right. In this case, it is about ensuring clean and functional stormwater drains and rajakaluves, and finding and fixing potholes as soon as they show up.
In fact, there are guidelines on how to design and lay roads set down by the Expert Committee headed by K N Shivashankar Rao, Chief Engineer (Retd) PWD, GoK, in 2009. It lays down in minute detail the processes to be followed to ensure durable roads, covering aspects of quality control in the construction process and maintenance steps necessary during the lifetime of the roads.
To repeat, it just needs getting the basics right which can go a long way in fixing issues like potholes and floods.