Okay, so I have to admit something. I have no way of proving whether that statement is true - who knows how many craters are on the moon?! But that is the claim of Mumbai entrepreneurs, Rupesh, Lokesh, Ulhas, Edward, Nikhil and Sandip, who are determined to fix India’s pothole problem. Sounds dull? Not the way these guys are doing it.
Image from Fill In The Potholes
More than 12 million people live in Mumbai, making it the most populous city in India. Approximately 62% of Mumbai citizens live in informal slums. The city has a tropical climate, with several months of monsoon rain every year. In the words of these entrepreneurs, ‘every monsoon, Greater Mumbai becomes Crater Mumbai’, as the rain wears away the roads and makes it very difficult to get around.
Crater-filled roads make it slower to get people and products where they need to go, and they also cause crashes. The wear and tear on cars caused by rough roads costs families money, and causes taxi drivers and couriers to miss out on work while their vehicles are being repaired. Basically, bad roads make it harder for a community to prosper.
A man struggles through monsoon rain in Mumbai. Cropped from a photo by Hussain Al-Ahmed on Flickr.
I don’t know about you, but I reckon that looks like a rather wet way to get home.
The ‘Fill In The Pot Hole’ project began as satire, designed just to “draw attention to this grave problem”. Authorities turned a blind eye to the situation on the ground, so Rupesh, Lokesh, Ulhas, Edward, Nikhil and Sandip decided to change that. By filling the potholes with stories, they got some media attention and suddenly members of the public were submitting their own stories.
Shehzad Kapadia, a concept artist, submitted this illustration of Godzilla arising from a pothole. Shehzad says he wants to ‘help fight the pothole menace that plagues all of us’. Image from Fill In The Potholes
Even batman can’t make it through a pothole! Image from Fill In The Potholes.
There are plenty of fish in the sea - but in potholes? Not so many. Image from Fill In The Potholes.
Now, however, the entrepreneurs have set about on a bigger mission: to launch a smartphone app that allows members of the public to report the GPS location of potholes to the authorities. This will speed up the process of filling up the potholes, giving responsibility and power back to the citizens of Mumbai. They’re trying to crowdfund the app - check it out!
Image from Fill In The Potholes.
So why are these guys so passionate about this problem? Rupesh, Lokesh, Ulhas, Edward, Nikhil and Sandip say:
“To be honest, aches, pains, our damaged vehicles, the sheer amount of people who either get into an accident or lose their lives thanks to one single crater. Traffic jams. You can’t even see the craters at night. All this and the dream of having a day when there are no potholes on the roads.”
Between 2007-11, Mumbai had the highest number of accidental deaths in the whole of India. 37% of these fatalities occurred on the road - the equivalent of 3,525 lives lost. A shocking 92.6% of accidental injuries occurred on the roads.
I live in London, and have to admit I’ve never thought much about the quality of our roads. Perhaps it’s dangerous to be a cyclist, and of course it’s the worst day in the world when there’s a tube strike, but dangerous just because of a hole in the road? That’s not something that’s ever crossed my mind. That somebody could lose their life - or the life of a loved one - because of a pothole - seems like madness.
Image credit: Fill In The Potholes
Image credit: Fill In The Potholes
Rupesh, Lokesh, Ulhas, Edward, Nikhil and Sandip have found a funny and engaging way to tackle the problem. To the Mumbai authorities I say: please fill these potholes, not with stories but a lasting solution.