Motorists are wary about roads with potholes which have contributed to increasing accidents It has been raining misery on Bengaluru in the last few days As trees come falling down, drains overflow, power lines snap and roads get inundated, motorists encounter one more danger lurking on their paths: the ubiquitous potholes. Potholes are the city’s old foes. Multiple governments have made promises of making the ‘IT city’ pothole-free. Several deadlines have been fixed and missed, but these craters have made a comeback. Social media has been abuzz with citizens complaining about the risk they pose. “Potholes in Bengaluru have become killing machines. BBMP & state government are not concerned about this. I request, please save commuters,” said one citizen on Twitter. Another asked if an electric car-maker can lab-test vehicles for Mars in Bengaluru. “An electric car let down by Bengaluru’s infrastructure. Sir, can you please build cars that run on stagnant street water and giant potholes? Can be your test-lab for Mars vehicles. It will be a super success.” Road accidents The ‘Road Accidents in India – 2017’ report, of the Union Ministry of Road Transport and Highways, shows how bad roads have contributed to accidents “Features, such as sharp curves, potholes and steep grades, tend to be accident-prone because it takes skill, extra care, and alertness to negotiate them. The data for 2017 has shown that 64.2% of accidents occurred on straight roads, whereas mishaps on curved roads, roads with potholes, and steep grades together accounted for 15.6% of the total accidents,” the report said. Of the total 4,64,910 accidents reported that year — which caused 1,47,913 fatalities and 4,70,975 injuries — the number of accidents owing to potholes was 9,423, which caused 3,597 fatalities and 8,792 injuries. The Bruhat Bengaluru Mahanagara Palike (BBMP), though, claims there were only 300 potholes at the time of the last count, in April, and all of them have been closed. “New ones have appeared during the recent rain. But this is a continuous process and an everyday maintenance component. We have regularly been closing the new ones,” said a senior BBMP official. He also said potholes were a “universal problem.” “The asphalted roads have to be resurfaced every three to four years to avoid pothole formation. Apart from this, potholes are formed due to water leakage, digging due to laying of optical fiber cables, fault repair and others. Water stagnation is also a problem owing to drainage blockage and we have a regular maintenance team to address this. Perennial water stagnation points are also being dealt with,” he said. The BBMP is pitching its ambitious white-topping and TenderSURE projects as answers to potholes. “We are minimising potholes through white-topping instead of black topping. Through TenderSURE upgrade, there will be no further road cutting in the future as all utilities will be inside the footpath,” said the official. ‘Not rocket science’ But not everyone is impressed. Piyush Tewari from SaveLIFE Foundation (SLF), a non-profit organisation working on road safety, said building simple, good quality roads is not “rocket science.” “It is a shame that the tech hub of India cannot figure out a solution to a basic problem. There are good quality roads even in countries like Bhutan and Sri Lanka, and ironically, Indian firms are building these roads in Bhutan,” he said. Mr. Tewari said the solution lies in fixing accountability. “One of the first challenges is to fix responsibility. Even the MORTH report talks about a few 1,000 accidents due to poorly engineered roads, but investigation of crashes often does not account for engineering errors. So there is underestimation of numbers. Accountability is not fixed on engineers and contractors, and the pothole problem continues. It is not exaggerated by monsoon, but by deep corruption. Law needs to consider holding those responsible accountable for culpable homicide,” he said. A solution by the people, for the people In some parts of the city, citizens have rolled up their sleeves and gotten to work, some of them hiring external agencies to help them out. The popular Pothole Raja, for example, which helps people rid their streets of potholes, has been receiving more requests in the last few weeks. Prathaap B, Founder and CEO, Pothole Raja, said their team had filled over 150 potholes in the last two weeks. “The demand is mostly from residents, and two-wheeler commuters or those whose wives are pregnant, those with babies, the elderly, and persons with disabilities. A lot of requests have come in from Sarjapur, Hennur, Koramangala, Malleswaram, K.R. Puram, Whitefield, Mysuru Road, Kanakapura Road, and Vijayanagar,” he said. Mr. Prathaap said there has been a 20-25% increase in calls compared to the last two years owing to infrastructure work and rains compounding the problem. Who is funding these pothole filling exercises? “Most of it is CSR, some are funding themselves, and some are through donations. We have also pushed in for a lot of corporates also to fund the 3 to -5 km radius leading to their offices,” he said.