Bad roads to get worse,courtesy poor blacktopping

Coal tar adulterated, R&B sleeps

Blacktopping this year is feared to let the bad roads go worse. Reasons: Use of substandard construction material as comparatively costly coal tar is allegedly being adulterated with used automobile oil which costs peanuts.

 The development has emerged in the election year when political promises of improved Bijli, Sadak Aur Paani heighten. While people have started complaining about substandard blacktopping, experts said the ongoing macadamization is so faulty that it may not withstand even the first winter. In Srinagar blacktopping is mostly undertaken by the Roads and Building (R&B) department.

THE COMPLAINTS
Arif couldn’t believe his eyes that blacktopping undertaken a week ago would still be soft enough to slip his motorbike off its stand. “Even after a week the macadam was soft like grass and has started developing cracks,” the Dalgate man complained while lifting his bike from the road.
Near Hajj House on the Bemina highway, the recently blacktopped road is equally messy. “Even after days of blacktopping, a walk on the road gives a soft feel,” the complainants said.
Similar complaints have popped up from areas like Bismillah Colony Zakura where blacktopping was recently undertaken but some patches were left typically muddy. “This substandard blacktopping won’t last for more than a few weeks,” said Abdul Rashid a local.
Retired civil engineer Ghulam Mustafa of Soura said: “You don’t need any rocket technology to expose the substandard blacktopping. This is something visible to anyone having commonsense.”

THE ADULTERATION
 Sources said given the comparatively high price tag of Bitumen, known as coal tar in local parlance, those dealing with macadamization allegedly resort to unfair means. “Instead of requisite proportion of coal tar which costs around Rs 65 per KG, discarded or to say used motor oil costing no more than Rs 5-10 per KG is used in alarming amounts. This way millions are saved even for a mile of blacktopping,” said a source privy to the development.
As per the standard specifications, experts said, coal tar content has to be religiously adhered to. “Ideally 50 mm (2 inch) thick macadam needs 64 KGs of tar per meter cube. For laying semi-dense 25 mm, 2.88 KGs of coal tar is needed per square meter. Seal coat at the top needs 0.76 KGs of tar  per square meter,” explained a retired R&B official asking not to be identified.
“And if the road is already blacktopped but in bad condition, it needs a tack coat @ 0.50 KGs per 10 meter square. And in case the road is Water Bound Macadam(WBM), newly constructed, it needs tack coat at the rate of 0.75 KGs per 10 square meter,” he added. ”Apart from financial gains, the use of used(discarded) engine oil leaves the consistency of tar less viscous  which makes it easy to lay macadam and thus takes less labor component.”
An environmentalist, on the other hand said it was better to use machine oil residual in road constructions than emptying it into waterbodies. “Leave apart the side-effects of mixing oil to tar coal but it is a better utility because otherwise it ends up in waterbodies to destroy flora and fauna,” he quipped.

SEASONAL PLAN
Blacktopping in Srinagar is a seasonal development undertaken from the mid of May to October when the temperature remains feasible in this region, which faces harsh Himalayan winter. But the macadamization  season this year remained even shorter due to delay in release of annual funds.
But with a month left, the R&B has intensified the blacktopping, more so due to “political  pressures in the election year that work be completed either by hook or crook.”

OFFICIALS SPEAK
R&B officials while refuting the adulteration allegations said there was a “fool proof mechanism in place whereby team of experts constantly monitor hot mix plants, where material is prepared for laying.” “How can our people allow such mischief?” they questioned.
When contacted Chief Engineer R&B SK Razdan said: “You tell us about any specific spot where from such complaint has come and we will seriously look into the matter.”
District Development Commissioner Farooq Ahmed Shah said the matter would be investigated. “If at all there are complaints, we will inquire the matter. And if anyone is found guilty he or she will be taken to task,” the DDC told Greater Kashmir adding “no indiscipline will be tolerated.”

THE STANDARDS
For laying 50 mm (2 inch) thick macadam, 64 KGs of coal tar per meter cube is needed

For laying semi-dense 25 mm thick macadam, 2.88 KGs of coal tar is needed per square meter
Seal coat at the top of the macadam needs 0.76 KGs of coal tar per square meter
Blacktopped road in bad condition needs a tack coat @ 0.50 kgs per ten meter square

If the road is Water Bound Macadam or newly constructed, it needs tack coat @ 0.75 kgs per 10 square meter

(Source experts)

JAGMOHAN FACTOR

Former Governor of Jammu and Kashmir Jagmohan Malhotra, known by the mononym Jagmohan, could be debated for his political moves in the state particularly after the start of militancy in the Valley. But many say Jagmohan’s name often goes synonymous with iconic blacktopping of Srinagar roads undertaken during his rule. Many say his became the benchmark of blacktopping as no macadamization there after was even worth comparison.
As a part of the Core Area Development Project of ‘80s the then Governor had personally monitored quality of blacktopping. The results remained surprising. “For a place where macadamization lasts for no more than a year, the road developed by Jagmohan was so robust that it didn’t even suffer any damage for more than a decade in our locality,” hailed Razia a Karan Nagar resident.