Thursday, October 11, 2007

National Highways: Bad Implementation of Good Standards

Our recent drive along NH-17 in Karnataka was a nightmare. I always thought the roads in Kerala were bad until I saw these!

We covered some of the worst stretches at night so I was unable to photograph them. Most of the large vehicles on this road were tankers and trucks going to & fro refineries and thermal power plants in the area. Overturned trucks,and vehicles with broken axles were quite common along the route.

According to a BusinessLine report on Tuesday (09 Oct), a large number of trucks are now being carried by the Konkan Railway to avoid the roads along the western coast.

This region has climatic conditions similar to Thailand. So I wondered why our highways kept getting washed away in the monsoons every year.

According to Prof. AK Sarkar of BITS Pilani, "Our national highways follow international design standards. These parameters are not generally designed to withstand a lot of temperature variation...which creates problems for the longevity of our roads" (Tehelka 13 Oct. 2007)

But we have been having institutions like the Central Road Research Insitute (CRRI) for decades. What have they been up to all these years??

A more plausible explanation came from Mr. M. Tanaka, a Japanese Expert based in India, "In India, they have standards for pavement that are same as International Standards, but these are not implemented properly at the construction sites. They need better quality management during construction and more attention to the drainage. Moreover, overloaded truck and poor maintenance deteriorate pavement much faster than designed."

NH17 is to be improved under NHDP-IIIA.

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