The fact that Kerala has bagged a handsome order of over Rs 2 Crore coir geotextiles from the neighbouring state of Tamilnadu to reinforce their roads is a matter of delight. However the immediate query that pops up in every Malayalees mind would be the apathy of the administration in making use of these materials in making the roads of Kerala in motorable condition. Kerala roads have been in the news for all the wrong reasons as they remain in pitiable condition riddled with potholes all round the year. While Kerala has succeeded in eying at the commercial aspects of geo textiles, it has turned a Nelson’s eye at making use of this materials in solving its own road repair woes.
Geotextiles are highly effective in not just stabilizing roads but also can be used in reinforcing roads, rails, river embankments and air fields. The best part is that these natural products can be used as absorbants of toxic contents in waste dump areas, acoustic barriers for noise control in sports arenas and many more. Because of its high sound-proof property, geotextiles have even been recommended by the Dutch and German Government agencies for noise reduction in environmentally sensitive areas and as acoustic barriers in homes. Kerala’s coir geotextile is also well poised to enter the international market like Saudi Arabia and South Africa.
It is sad that these high value products, which have received acclaims from all over the world have never been used in improving the roads and living conditions of the native people of Kerala. While these products are being exploited only as export items that fetch handsome revenue for the coffers, Kerala roads remain destined as death traps for thousands of commuters. Kerala has to put up with high accident rates due to the pathetic road conditions and outdated road maintenance mechanisms, which often end up as mere eye wash. Even when there are proven materials that can bring about a quality change in the way we travel, why is that these products always fail to reach the common man? Well, will this query also remain as yet another social issue without an answer!
The biggest bane of Kerala is the appalling conditions of its roads that remain in a non motorable state all round the year. Pot holes appear as soon as the tarring is completed leaving the users badly grounded. However, there seems to be some hope for this nagging problem in the form of cotton nets that can be used for reinforcing the roads. The water logged areas of Kuttanad have already made use of this product in strengthening its roads and bunds. The project, successfully implemented in association with the Kerala Industrial and Technical Consultancy Organisation in different wards of Edathua last year is primarily aimed at preventing soil erosion.
Soil erosion is rampant in Kuttanad region where floods occur twice a year, which wash off the roads and bunds. The new techniques is expected to strengthen the roads by keeping the soil on both sides of the road tightly wrapped. Recently a stretch of road from Edathua to Puvakkad was constructed using the technique and it is expected to stay in good condition for a minimum of four years.
The cotton nets are first spread on the embankments of the road , which are vulnerable to soil erosion. The nets are then fixed to the soil using bamboo and grass and tree saplings are planted, which keep the net tightly fixed. The need of the hour is to ensure high quality roads, which has a vital role in the economic development of Kerala. These indigenous methods would indeed go a long way in offering cost effective solutions for making the roads stable and long lasting.
Let’s be frank about it. I think , given a chance, many of us would love to go back in time to the old life style of Kerala, even if it means to be a bit slow, lackluster and mundane. Life in Kerala was much better than what we are destined to put up with now in the name of development and modernity; atleast that is what I realized during my weekend ramble along Kerala .
The onward journey to Ooty in the neighbouring State of Tamilnadu was enjoyable and hassle free. We had set out much before the day break; much before the Kerala high ways get chokeful with vehicles from all over India, bringing in food supplies to the famished Keralites, who shamelessly depend on other states for everything from grocery to milk, meat , egg and even flowers to deck up the malayalee brides!
However our journey back home was nothing less than a nightmare that robbed us off the weekend fun. Things were pretty smooth till we reached the Walayar Check post in the Kerala border where we were greeted by the meandering lines of vehicles of all possible shapes and sizes! Inching our way through the soot and the thick plumes of smoke from the tail pipes of vehicles, we managed to reach Palakkad after an hour or so only to find more unsavory sights.
The roads abruptly became narrow and potholed as we crossed on to Kerala with many eyesores like the open drains, graffiti, and broken footpaths pointing towards the official apathy and the rampant corruption all over. What was baffling was the fact that though there were no basic amenities like good roads and parking facilities, Keralites always had an uncanny penchant for palatial homes, ostentatious hotels and vehicles that show off the newly acquired wealth and gulf money. Most of the hotels open straight into the roads with no parking lots or front yard. Forget about the building rules that stipulate adequate parking facilities, frontage space, rain water harvesting and many more. Rules are made to be broken in Kerala; ( I could even see many shops that have encroached the footpaths ( some have put up iron grills and annexed it to their shop- smart move indeed!!)
As the politicians clamor for their share of the undercut for having scuttled the NH road widening project, the local populace can blame their fate for having to live in near hell like conditions all their life! Being one of the smallest states, Kerala should have been one of the best managed states in India with well planned wide roads, tree lined avenues, underground cables and other facilities. But the corruption, red-tapism and vested interests of the mighty have rendered the God’s own country to devil’s abode. I sincerely wish to get back the anonymity of the bygone era, when atleast Kerala was a charming land of lush greenery, clean surroundings, pure water and air with paddy fields to feed everyone!