Government Highway Engineers Held Responsible for Potholes on National Highways (NH) says Union Government! Why is NH 66 from Nanthoor to Baikampady Neglected?
Mangaluru: In its plan to make India’s highways pothole-free, the Union government introduced a stringent accountability system for highway engineers. The Centre has set a clear deadline for eliminating potholes from National Highways (NHs) by the end of this year. This initiative aims to ensure the smooth and safe travel of millions of commuters who rely on these vital roadways. The government said that Government highway engineers will now be held responsible for failure to make the National Highway network pothole-free. Each project director must visit all roads at least once every 15 days and take steps to fix any maintenance issues.
For this, the entire 1.46 lakh km of NH network will be covered under some kind of perpetual maintenance contract, meaning that maintenance can be undertaken whenever there is a requirement rather than going for floating fresh tenders. In 2021, potholes caused 3,625 road accidents claiming 1,481 lives and leaving 3,064 injured. Potholes on highways also impact the speed of vehicles. At the beginning of October 2023, the union road transport minister said the new strategy would deal with the issue of rains causing damage to highways. His ministry would involve engineering students who can help detect potholes, lack of maintenance and defects in the drainage system.
However, for example, if you look at the pathetic and dilapidated condition of the stretch of National Highway 66 from Nanthoor Junction to Baikampady, one could say that the NH engineers are still sleeping, turning a blind eye when the mentioned NH 66 stretch is getting from bad to worse. It is again filled with craters and potholes as the monsoon rain this season has washed away the road which was maintained spending crores of rupees. The Kulur Bridge stretch on the Udupi -Mangaluru carriageway is particularly the most affected one with the bitumen surface almost wearing out resulting in the formation of large craters. The completely worn-out stretch at KIOCL Junction, a large speed breaker erected just before the Old Kulur Bridge and a rough patch just after the bridge has been affecting smooth vehicular movement.
During the morning and evening peak hours, vehicles pile up as far as MCF due to slow-moving vehicles on this particular stretch. The remaining stretches of both the carriageways between Kulur and Baikampady are dotted with potholes and craters at several places threatening road users. Sources reveal that the National Highways Authority of India (NHAI), which maintains the Port Connectivity Project between BC Road-Nanthoor Junction (NH 75) and Nanthoor-Surathkal (NH 66), has spent around Rs 14 crore for the upkeep of the stretch since 2019.
Roshan Fernandes who travels to work daily from Mangaluru to Surathkal speaking to Team Mangalorean said, ” It has become an annual affair; every monsoon the stretch gets damaged and thereafter, it is repaired. Motorists can drive or ride on good roads only for about three to four months. While repairing the road, the NHAI did not address water-logging issues at many places resulting in extensive damage to the surface. The entire stretch of road I take is filled with potholes and rough surfaces. Since I drive a car, I pity the two-wheeler riders facing hardships”.
Deepak Kumar said, ” While the road geometry itself appears faulty and no corrections have been made to address those faults, the shoulder drains too are not regularly cleaned for the smooth flow of rainwater. The authority filled potholes with bitumen mix recently in some places. Except for offering a bumpy ride or drive, the filling has not helped motorists.
Owners of heavy vehicles are facing heavy losses due to the massive pothole on the highway while entering the industrial area near Baikampady. Auto-rickshaws and other small vehicles prefer to ply through the inner roads instead of facing the dilapidated condition of the highway. Though the rickshaw owners and localities have brought the issue to the notice of the department, it has failed to take any remedial action. Its result of frequent patch-up work amounts to nil.
“The highway department must take action to fill the potholes. For many years there have been potholes from Panambur to Baikampady. Though the tar was re-laid on the Kuloor Bridge recently, in a single rain it has been completely washed off. Though this problem repeats every year, the department only indulges in patchwork. They need to take action and provide a permanent solution,” said Mohammed Azeez, who drives a tempo to haul vegetables from APMC Market in Baikampady.