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Monday, September 24, 2012


Govt transfers charge of city highways from PWD to BMC

Move Follows Complaints Against Poor Maintenance

    The Maharashtra government has given the Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation (BMC) the responsibility to maintain the Eastern and Western Express Highways, the most vital of the city's north-south arteries. The decision was taken on Monday following a piling up of complaints against the current custodian of the two thoroughfares—the state public works department (PWD). 
    The BMC had been pushing for custody of the two highways for quite sometime. De
spite the roads experiencing heavy traffic, when potholes and craters surface on them, repairs are not done quickly. Also, though the BMC is one of many civic agencies in charge of maintaining the city's roads (the others being the PWD, Mumbai Metropolitan Region Development Authority, Mumbai Port Trust and the Maharashtra State Road Development Corporation), it takes flak for the poor condition of roads every year. 
    A senior BMC official said that the municipality had wanted control of WEH and EEH in keeping with the law. "Under the BMC Act, the municipal commissioner must be satisfied with the condition of all roads within corporation limits. If not, he can seek custody of the roads. Our demand regarding the two highways has 
been in this context." 
    Monday's decision was taken during a meeting of senior BMC officials and deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar, who directed the PWD to hand over possession of the two highways to the municipality with immediate effect. When Pawar asked why the highways were repeatedly developing bad patches and potholes, the officials said the PWD lacked a coherent system of undertaking repair work on them. This was not the first time that the possibility of WEH and EEH being the BMC's responsibility was deliberated upon; several meetings between the government and the municipality on the issue had taken place before. 
    In taking Monday's decision, the government was perhaps aware of the difference in approach of the PWD and the BMC regarding road repairs: over the years, the BMC has experimented with various technologies to fill potholes, including imported ones; but the PWD's method has been to temporarily patch up bad stretches with paver blocks, which are usually used to lay footpaths. This approach only worsened the condition of the highways, with several stretches becoming uneven. 
    The PWD had custody of the 25-km WEH for long, except for a brief period when it was handed over to the MMRDA. During this time, the highway saw major growth of traffic and development of connectivity. But a question mark always remained on its maintenance. The 23-km EEH, too, has had its share of problems, with several incidents of skidding being reported in recent years.


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