Why road milling work calls for active involvement of Chennai citizens

Flouting of norms during milling of roads leads to several issues, including flooding. Residents can play a role in averting such situations.

After over a decade, elections to the council of the Greater Chennai Corporation have been announced. As the city authorities waited for the dates to be announced, work to resurface the pothole-ridden roads of Chennai was taken up in different parts of the city. This starts with milling, a process in which a portion of the surface on the top of the road is removed with the help of a milling machine before it is resurfaced in accordance with the guidelines specified by the High Court of Madras. Given our bad experience in the past, members of the local residents’ group, the Community Welfare Brigade, chose to keep a close watch on the quality of work being undertaken across our neighborhoods and have reported their concerns.

Road milling being undertaken

Raghavan Street of Ward 69 in Zone 6 was resurfaced after milling sometime before the Pongal festival holidays. This road had been in pretty bad condition for several years. After the construction of a storm water drain a few years ago, the width of the road had narrowed significantly. 

While we are told the milling has been done before the road was resurfaced, the height of the road has increased significantly at several locations across Raghavan Street. The height of the BT mix applied ranges anywhere between 4 to 9 inches above the original surface of the road. In Raghavan Street, the milling and resurfacing rules seem to have been flouted totally.

Read more: Explainer: How are roads in Chennai laid?

Also, the height of the SWD across the length of Raghavan Street is either a few inches higher or flushed with the surface of the road. The drain is not in straight alignment in a couple of locations and the drain vents have been constructed in a very shoddy manner. 

As per the details furnished on the GCC website, the height of the drain top must be 6 inches above the road level. The top level of the slab and manhole doors should be flush with the footpath slab level. In all roads crossing the slab should be flush with road level. The drain should be in straight alignment. But this is not the case in Raghavan Street and many other streets in our locality.

chennai stormwater drain
Stormwater drains have not been built according to the norms prescribed. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

From the images shot by residents, it is clear that the height of the road has increased over the last decade or more. Even if we choose to overlook the mistakes of the past, the least the officials and contractors could have done is taken sufficient care to ensure the height of the road wasn’t further elevated yet again. But that is just what happened, and as a result, house owners and shopkeepers have been forced to construct obstructions at the entrance to prevent water stagnation and flooding. Some have chosen to undertake expensive measures such as raising the building using stilts to prevent water-logging.

Bharathi Road & Rajabhadar Street have also seen milling work over the last few days. As per the High Court guidelines 40mm (4cm) of the existing road has to be milled and the same 4 cm of BT Mix should have been used for resurfacing the road. The purpose of milling is only to ensure that the height of the road is maintained and not increased any further. The fact that the High Court of Madras & the Chief Secretary have taken cognizance of this issue by itself is an admission that all is not well.

chennai road height
Height of the road after laying the BT mix is above the prescribed limit. Pic: Raghukumar Choodamani

Quality control of road milling exercise and SWDs

Kattaboman Street in Chrompet was in the news only a few days ago due to issues with milling. Arappor Iyakkam had escalated the issue relating to a similar problem faced by the residents in Chrompet where the milling rules were being blatantly flouted. Following the inspection at Kattaboman Salai along with the GCC Commissioner and other local officials, the Chief Secretary ordered the road contractor to mill and resurface the entire road once again in a bid to restore the original height of the road.

A similar issue was brought to light by a few residents from 2nd Street, North Jaganathan Nagar Annex, Villivakkam on the 26th of January 2022. Based on a request from Arappor Iyakkam, I conducted a road audit along with two other volunteers and extended moral support and help in escalating their concerns to the higher officials. The entire street was milled again and the road was resurfaced as per the guidelines issued by the government. As long as people are aware of their rights and are prepared to engage with the government, such issues can be resolved amicably.

A quality control department functions within the Greater Chennai Corporation and they have put in place a proper guideline which is required to be followed. This raises the question of why these stipulations are routinely flouted and the contractors responsible are not held accountable. We are left wondering if there are quality audit mechanisms in place and if so what action has been taken till date on those who have violated the norms. These are difficult questions which need to be asked time and again by the residents who bear the brunt of shoddy civic amenities.

Read more: Knock knock, no response: The tale behind Chennai’s civic mess

Hope for the future and need for vigilance

We are very glad our Chief Minister is now personally looking into this issue of public interest. We are also happy to learn that a team of 15 IAS Officials has been deployed to oversee the road relaying work across the state.

The intervention of the High Court of Madras, Chief Secretary and the Chief Minister is a step forward in the right direction and we welcome it wholeheartedly. Having raised this issue without much change for several years we are happy that our voices have been finally heard. Realistically, it would be impossible for the higher authorities within the ranks of the administration to keep a watch on what is going on in every nook and corner of the city. It’s up to us, the people, to ensure the roads in our immediate neighborhoods are resurfaced in a proper manner.

Ordering the contractors to rework on the road alone is not going to help in the long term. The contractors and local officials will need to be pulled up. Contractors who fail to fall in line need to be blacklisted and the officials must be punished. Strict action against those who choose to break the rules is the only option available to bring about a sense of accountability in our system.

Read more: Explainer: When can you sue your municipal body for accidents due to potholes?

Every monsoon our city is just a step away from disaster; in this scenario, what we need to do is be prepared and take preventive measures. If we notice something going wrong, let us spare a moment to report to the Greater Chennai Corporation by calling “1913” or use the “Namma Chennai App” to lodge our concerns. By doing so we can ensure the height of our roads are maintained and prevent inundation during the monsoon. Civic engagement is the key to resolve all our issues.

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  1. Jayaraman V S says:

    This article should serve as a guide to the residents. Normally roads are relaid during night. And the job gets done within hours time.Many roads in T Nagar are higher than that those of the residential premises. Result, rain water from the roads enter the premises causing flooding. A couple of days ago, a road in T Nagar was taken up relaying. Since the milling was not done properly, the Asst Engineer was informed of the same. While he told that milling was done, he was asked to do the yet again. Many of the residents do not seem to bother about this. Unless the residents do not take a serious view of this, the officials too will turn a blind eye. I appreciate if the writer shares his phone number so that I can interact with him.

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