Maharashtra's deputy chief minister Ajit Pawar has backed the demand for a ban on the use of paver blocks for major roads, but chief minister Prithviraj Chavan, who handles the urban development ministry, is silent on the matter.
The matter was discussed at a meeting of the disaster management cell held at Sahyadri guest house on Friday, and Pawar stressed the urgency to direct the civic bodies to stop using paver blocks as they often get dislodged resulting in potholes.
When contacted by DNA, Pawar said he raised the matter when Mumbai municipal commissioner Sitaram Kunte made a presentation on the steps being taken on complaints about bad roads during the monsoon.
"I put this forward as I have received complaints from some people in this regard. In Mumbai, when the paver blocks pop up it leads to pits. People often don't notice the pits as water accumulates and this results in inconvenience to the public," Pawar said.
He acknowledged that it was the chief minister's right to take a decision in this regard as he heads the department.
Chavan, however, has not responded formally to the demand.
Some time ago, Raj Thackeray, chief of the Maharashtra Navnirman Sena (MNS) had appealed to the authorities not to use paver blocks on roads and to limit their use to pavements.
The paver blocks have several joints and in the absence of proper leveling the blocks commonly get dislodged posing a risk to motorists and particularly two-wheeler riders.
One example is a spot outside the Goregaon telephone exchange where paver blocks have sunk resulting in a large crater. The spot is near an important junction on SV Road and has led to traffic slowing down.
Responding to Pawar's suggestion, the civic chief expressed his helplessness, saying the use of asphalt was not advisable during the monsoon. "But then you must ensure that the roads in areas where water-logging occurs are concretized during the period outside the monsoon. Service roads/stretches beneath which utilities run, can be asphalted," Pawar suggested.
Another minister, who also attended the meeting, was blunt and said that it was high time that the chief minister did something on the paver blocks matter in the public interest. "The CM has been very slow in his approach over the past three-and-a-half years. The issue of paver blocks is serious. We expect him to take a decision in this case at least now," he said.
Chavan did not revert to calls by DNA.
A senior civic official however has pointed out that paver blocks have become a problem more as a result of human error.
He explained that the paver block was likely to give away if it was of an inferior quality and layers of crushed stone, grit and sand (that helps drainage of water) are not laid properly. "The concrete blocks used in road construction have to be at least 100mm in size and properly cured or it would lead to a problem. Also, if the stratum beneath a road is weak, then the paver blocks won't work. If we follow the proper process paver blocks are a good option and this is common in Europe," he said.