Posts tagged "roads"

The Plastic Road Campaign

During the monsoon season, which comes at different times of the year depending on where you are in India, the deluge of water inundates the the drainage system and turns the roads in to shallow canals. I’ve posted my fair share of pictures and videos on this blog of roads that are completely submersed after days of non-stop rainfall. It’s not so much that the drainage system is poor, it’s pretty extensive, it’s mostly because of the volume of water that can fall in such a short period of time and the drains can get blocked by the detritus of the city. Every year before the monsoon season starts you see frenzied activity as the authorities clear out and prepare the stormwater drains.

During and after the monsoon season, many roads in Chennai look like this as the water washes away the surface

All this water turns the roads of Chennai in to a labyrinth of pot holes as the upper surface is washed away. The effect it has on the traffic, not to mention what it’s doing to private and public vehicles is pretty horrendous – which is of course the only reason I haven’t bought myself a car yet; it would cost too much to maintain! (seriously!). Pot holes have also caused injury to pedestrians and in one extreme case last year a young girl lost her life because the storm water drains that run along side the roads had collapsed and as the girl was walking along the submerged road, fell in the hole and unfortunately drowned.

I can’t confirm that this happened in Chennai but many websites say it did!

There is a solution to the pot-holed roads though which is to use recycled plastic and mix it in to the bitumen compound. This creates roads that are harder and far less susceptible to water damage – pretty awesome when your roads are submerged for three months of the year! The results have been so successful that in several test roads around the city with some having lasted several years without damage. Thanks to these successful trials the Corporation of Chennai decided that it was time to finally solve the road problem and roll out plastic roads across Chennai.

There was one problem though: The Corporation of Chennai has a reputation slightly better than the ebola virus and PR skills taken from the book of BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster mitigation team. Simply put, even if the Corporation is able to put out a message the public are not likely to listen it it.

Step in the Stella Maris MA Public Relations class of 2010. They have taken up the cause and put in place a PR campaign to raise awareness on the importance of segregating and recycling plastic across their ward (the city is divided up in to wards and zones). Named Plastic Salai (salai means road in Tamil), the campaign has been so effective that it has not only taken their own faculty by surprise but has won the accolades of the Chief Commissioner of the Corporation of Chennai who heaped praise on them during a recent live radio interview.

Before the PR students started their campaign the Corporation was having to import plastic from other states to use on the roads since 1 tonne of plastic was required to lay just 1KM of road. This is pretty insane because walk along any road in India and you’ll see plenty of discarded plastic bags, plastic pouches and plastic packaging material. The Corporation was collecting around 7.5 tonnes of plastic a week but the latest figures suggest that now well over 50 tonnes has been collected – probably in no small way thanks to the awareness that has been raised by the Plastic Salai campaign.

The students have created a Facebook page with all the details of their campaign so far and have engagement rates that would make every social media manager in the world salivate and turn green with envy. There is also the Plastic Salai blog which has indepth analysis of everything the students have done so far (and is far better at explaining how great plastic roads are than I can) and a regularly updated Twitter account.

As well as doing some pretty amazing social media work and organizing the rally pictured above, the students have also created some very professionally produced videos like the ones below:

There is also this educational animated video that has apparently gone down a treat with school children and corporates alike and businesses have donated money to the cause based on seeing this video alone!

Finally, what’s a holistic PR campaign without a brilliant catchy tune? Several of the students put together this amazing song which got plenty of air time on the Chennai radios and has notched up well over 1,000 listens on

The campaign has the secondary benefit of getting more people to think about recycling their plastic. Most rubbish that is thrown out is actually recyclable and one of the reasons the stormwater drains are not as effective as they could be is that they are clogged up with – you guessed it – plastic.

All in all, this has been one of the best campaigns the city has seen in a long while. It’s getting citizens to be more involved with the civic authorities, getting people to think more about segregating waste and improving the infrastructure of the city so that the roads become safer and longer lasting.

India Isn’t Just A Different Country…

…It has a different way of thinking.

So often things happen in India, and it just makes me wonder “what was going through your mind when you were doing that”. For example, standing on the roof of a building and using a pneumatic drill to dismantle the roof.

Granted, stupidity isn’t confined to a single country as the Darwin awards attest to.

Anyways, another classic example of how Indians think differently was demonstrated on Sunday when, not for the first time, I was nearly ran over by a family on a motorbike.

As I walked to the shops to do my weekly shopping, I walk down a very quiet road. If there are two cars on the road, that’s a bit unusual.

Still, TII, you have to be constantly aware of what’s going on around you because the traffic can come from anywhere. Yes, really anywhere. You can’t walk on the pavements because a) there are no pavements b) the pavement is now someone’s home or area of business c) the pavement is covered by building material for the apartment that’s being build across the road d) the state of the pavement makes it more dangerous than walking on the road.

As a kid in England, from the moment you start school you are given lessons and made to watch videos on the simple task of crossing the road.




Is carved in to your very being as the message is repeated over and over.

This from a country where people obey the traffic lights, there are pedestrian crossings every where and towns and cities are more people friendly than car friendly.

So, armed with my A+ in how to cross a road I approached a crossing on Sunday. I stopped, I looked and saw a motorbike coming, So I stood at the side of the road and waiting for it to pass.


This Is India.

Instead of carrying on as he should have done, the motor bike started veering towards me, until the guy was virtually slowed to a halt as he tried to avoid me. I looked at the guy, looked at the otherwise empty cross roads and was speechless.

Similarly, the guy on the motorbike was similarly speechless.

And this is why.

When you cross a road in India, the traffic swerves to (hopefully) avoid you. Crossing the road is not a case of Stop, Look, Listen and Wait. It’s a case of putting one arm out to the side of you with your palm facing up telling the traffic to avoid you. You then walk across the road without looking and definitely without stopping.

So, why was this guy speechless? He was expecting me to do the ‘usual’ thing and carry on walking, and he had already made the mental adjustment to be in a place I wouldn’t be had I carried on walking.

Different country. Different way of thinking.