Despite the Onam holiday season, the travel problems of commuters and pedestrians do not end, thanks to potholes and heavy encroachment on city roads, bridges and footpaths.
The worst is the fate of the Thammanam-Pullepady road, which was poorly restored after being dug by the Kerala Water Authority (KWA). The Kochi Corporation has done little to restore the section, although KWA says it has provided funds for the restoration work. The result is that it is almost impossible to use one notoriously narrow side of the road, leading motorists to use the wrong side.
The company owns the crucial corridor and is responsible for its maintenance, although the Kerala Road Fund Board (KRFB) is expected to develop it into a four-lane section. Onam shoppers and regular commuters alike make a nightmare ride on the stretch that provides connectivity between the NH ring road and MG Road, while pedestrians have to risk their lives and walk.
Another corridor that is still in poor condition is the trio of Goshree bridges that connect the city to the Goshree, Cherai and North Paravur islands. Heavily corrugated bridges and their approach spans develop potholes at frequent intervals, causing accidents and slowing traffic.
The Goshree Action Council and Nerkazhcha Vedi, two NGOs, have been at the forefront of unrest demanding that the Goshree Islands Development Authority (GIDA) ensure safe travel across bridges and their access roads. “Countless crashes, including fatalities, have occurred after two-wheeler riders and others were caught off guard by potholes. GIDA must wake up from its sleep and ensure that repairs and resurfacing are carried out on a war footing, rather than giving lame excuses, ”said Majnu Komath, chairman of the board.
Referring to a “machua” accident in the backwaters of Bolghatty Island decades ago that claimed the lives of seven people, Mr Komath explained how the government of the day reintroduced a suitable boat which had been withdrawn from service earlier, within 24 hours of the accident. “Likewise, GIDA should not wait until fatal accidents occur to pull itself together. On the contrary, they should be avoided, ensuring safe travel. “
It is sad that civic agencies and others have failed to ensure pothole-free roads, despite Onam, said Abhijit K. John, chairman of Nerkazhcha. “The lack of street lighting has compounded the risk posed by potholes,” said Mr John.
Sources at GIDA said potholes on two bridges were repaired in the past week. A huge pothole on the second bridge will be repaired during the day. Efforts are underway to install LED street lights on all three bridges, they added.