After more than a decade, elections for the board of the Greater Chennai Corporation have been announced. As the city authorities waited for the dates to be announced, the resurfacing works of Chennai’s pothole-riddled roads have been undertaken in different parts of the city. It starts with milling, a process in which part of the surface on the top of the road is removed using a milling machine before being resurfaced according to the guidelines specified by the Madras High Court. Given our poor experience in the past, members of the local residents’ group, the Community Welfare Brigade, have chosen to closely monitor the quality of work undertaken in our neighborhoods and have raised their concerns.
Road milling in progress
Raghavan Street of Ward 69 in Area 6 has been redone after milling some time before the Pongal Festival holiday. This road had been in fairly poor condition for several years. After the construction of a storm sewer a few years ago, the width of the road had narrowed considerably.
Although we are told that the milling was done before the road was resurfaced, the height of the road has increased significantly at several places on Raghavan Street. The height of the applied BT mix varies between 4 and 9 inches above the original road surface. In Raghavan Street, the milling and resurfacing rules seem to have been totally flouted.
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Additionally, the height of the SWD along the entire length of Raghavan Street is either a few centimeters higher or flush with the road surface. The drain is not in straight alignment in a few places and the drain vents were constructed very poorly.
According to the details provided on the GCC website, the height of the top of the drain must be 6 inches above road level. The top level of the slab and manhole doors should be flush with the level of the sidewalk slab. In all crossing roads the slab should be flush with road level. The drain should be in straight alignment. But this is not the case in Raghavan Street and many other streets in our locality.
From images taken by residents, it is clear that the height of the road has increased over the past decade or more. Even if we choose to ignore the mistakes of the past, the least officials and contractors could have done is to ensure that the height of the road was not increased even further. But that is exactly what happened and as a result homeowners and traders were forced to build barriers to entry to prevent stagnant water and flooding. Some have chosen to undertake costly measures such as raising the building using pilings to avoid waterlogging.
Bharathi Road and Rajabhadar Street have also seen milling works over the past few days. As per High Court guidelines, 40mm (4cm) of the existing road must be milled and the same 4cm of BT Mix should have been used for road resurfacing. The purpose of milling is only to ensure that the height of the road is maintained and not increased further. The fact that the Madras High Court and the Chief Secretary have taken cognizance of this matter for themselves is an admission that all is not well.
Quality control road milling practice and SWD
Kattaboman Street in Chrompet made headlines just a few days ago due to milling issues. Arappor Iyakkam had compounded the issue with a similar issue faced by the people of Chrompet where grind rules were openly flouted. Following the inspection at Kattaboman Salai with the GCC Commissioner and other local officials, the Chief Secretary ordered the road contractor to re-mill and resurface the entire road with the aim of restoring height origin of the road.
A similar issue was brought to light by a few residents of 2nd Street, North Jaganathan Nagar Annex, Villivakkam on January 26, 2022. Based on a request from Arappor Iyakkam, I conducted a roadside audit with two other volunteers and extensive moral support. and help escalate their concerns to senior officials. The whole street has been re-milled and the road has been redone according to the guidelines issued by the government. As long as people know their rights and are willing to engage with the government, these issues can be resolved amicably.
A quality control department operates within the Greater Chennai Corporation and they have put in place a proper guideline which should be followed. This raises the question of why these stipulations are regularly flouted and why responsible contractors are not held accountable. We wonder if there are quality audit mechanisms in place and, if so, what actions have been taken so far against those who have violated the standards. These are tough questions that need to be asked again and again by residents bearing the brunt of shoddy civic amenities.
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Hope for the future and the need for vigilance
We are very pleased that our Chief Minister is now personally addressing this matter of public interest. We are also pleased to learn that a team of 15 IAS officials have been deployed to oversee truck stop work across the state.
The intervention of the Madras High Court, the Chief Secretary and the Chief Minister is a step in the right direction and we wholeheartedly welcome it. Having raised this issue without much change for several years, we are happy that our voices have finally been heard. Realistically, it would be impossible for the higher authorities within the administration to monitor what is happening in every nook and cranny of the city. It is up to us, the people, to ensure that the roads in our immediate neighborhoods are resurfaced appropriately.
Ordering contractors to rework only on the road is not going to help in the long run. Contractors and local officials will have to be arrested. Contractors who fail to comply should be blacklisted and officials should be punished. Strict action against those who choose to break the rules is the only option available to instill a sense of accountability in our system.
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With each monsoon, our city is just one step away from disaster; in this scenario, we must be prepared and take preventive measures. If we notice anything wrong, let’s take a moment to report it to the Greater Chennai Corporation by calling ‘1913’ or using the ‘Namma Chennai App’ to report our concerns. By doing so, we can ensure that the height of our roads is maintained and prevent flooding during the monsoon. Citizen engagement is the key to solving all our problems.