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Underpass under repair, faults jut out of surface

A barricade on the Shyambazar-bound flank of the Patipukur underpass; (below) a worker uses a jackhammer to rip out the damaged concrete surface for repair work. Pictures by Sanat Kumar Sinha

The 200m underpass at Patipukur that took 11 years to build and saddled with faulty design and poor construction from the start was closed last week for major repairs.

Iron rods were jutting out dangerously from the damaged concrete surface carrying Shyambazar-bound vehicles.

The underpass near Belgachhia, built at a cost of Rs 19 crore, attracted severe criticism when the mastic asphalt coating of the road surface washed away in rain, 11 days after it was opened to traffic in July 2012. It was reduced to a bumpy stretch of stone chips and exposed iron rods.

“We have had issues with the underpass since its inauguration. We tried patchwork repairs but that didn’t work. So we decided to rebuild the road surface,” said an executive engineer of the Calcutta Metropolitan Development Authority (CMDA), which maintains the facility.

He said traffic couldn’t be allowed before July because the repairs would take about a month.

CMDA officials blamed the damage on faulty planning and poor quality construction material.

“An underground pipe to drain out water from the underpass to Duttabagan pumping station has a defective design. Engineers realised only after construction that the station was at a higher level and water could not be drained out from the underpass. Hence, we have to rely on a pumping machine and deploy men to manually drain out water after every downpour,” said an official.

Days of waterlogging during the 2013 monsoon eroded the patchwork done on the surface.

Since waterlogging was inevitable, the engineers decided to do away with the bitumen and keep just the concrete surface.

“That didn’t solve the problem because the concrete surface, bereft of any waterproofing, started peeling off under wet conditions. Our job now is to dig up the entire road and put fresh concrete with two layers of a waterproof chemical coating. This would ensure longevity of the road,” said an engineer.

The agency will have to spend Rs 18.5 lakh on the roadwork.

CMDA officials said a new contractor has been hired to do the repairs.

When Metro visited the site in August last year, the underpass was in a shambles — a broken road riddled with potholes, jutting iron rods, poor drainage, poor lighting and inadequate police presence.

Residents had alleged that the waterlogging stayed for days because the water pumps were never properly deployed.

“The past two monsoons had battered the underpass as it went under waist-deep water for days. The drainage system was ineffective. Last year, the underpass was closed for over two days because of waterlogging,” said Avik Das, a resident of Belgachhia who drives through the Patipukur underpass every day to work.

Shoddy maintenance of the gully pits had worsened the situation, he alleged. “The pits remain clogged with muck and solid waste. These are seldom cleared or cleaned.”

The residents said iron thieves take advantage of poor policing and darkness to dig up the concrete surface and saw off the road mesh underneath. This has contributed immensely to the deterioration of the surface.

“You can hardly find a policeman at or near the underpass. Vehicles seldom follow traffic rules and thieves cut away iron rods from the road surface. All street lamps and cables on the walls of the underpass have been stolen,” said Biswajit Maiti of Patipukur.