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The Financial Express

Under-investment in road maintenance

Backlog raises RHD's fund demand by 1000pc

| Updated: July 31, 2020 09:48:04


Backlog raises RHD's fund demand by 1000pc

Backlog in road maintenance budget of Roads and Highways Department (RHD) during the last five years has increased the agency's fund demand by nearly 1000 per cent this year to keep its countrywide road network fit.

RHD's Highways Development and Management (HDM) Unit in its 2019 report demanded Tk 138.94 billion for current fiscal year (FY), 2020-21, which is 996 per cent higher than the demand it forecasted for five years in 2016.

According to the HDM Report 2016, the demand would have been Tk 12.68 billion in FY 2020-21, if RHD's required demand of Tk 124.75 billion for road maintenance work in the forms of periodical, partial reconstruction, routine work and total reconstruction was met in FY 2016-17.

RHD prepares the HDM report every year after surveying roughness of its road network during a certain time to review conditions of the roads and highways as well as assessing the yearly need.

After diagnosing the national, regional and zilla level road condition, the report also forecasts the agency's need for next five years, focusing on the first year's full investment, as the demand for next four years declines depending on it.

"Allocation of eight to 10 per cent of RHD's demand has become a normal practice," said an official at the maintenance circle.

After analysis of the HDM reports of 2016 and 2019, the FE found 996 per cent maintenance backlog due to continuation of lower allocation following many years.

The trend continues in the current FY also, as Tk 28.50 billion has been allocated for the purpose, which is nearly 80 per cent lower than the demand of Tk 138.94 billion.

"Backlog maintenance" is the result of under investment in maintenance in the past, all the HDM reports also stated.

RHD has always been blamed for carrying out substandard work in road maintenance. Transport experts and engineers, however, have long been fighting with the 'political' decision of allowing overloaded vehicles on roads.

They consider not applying proper axle control system on roads and highways as the major reason for deteriorating road condition across the country.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) in a project report stated about double damage of a road in case of carrying 20 per cent extra load than its permissible limit. The damage increases nine times, if overloading is nine times higher.

In 2017, the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges allowed overloading by paying minimum fines amid pressure from transport owners.

Commenting on the situation, transport expert Professor M Shamsul Hoque emphasised applying strict axle load control to stop misuse of people's tax money.

He also said timely spending with due allocation can save billions of taka.

HDM surveyed 19,282 km of RHD's roads from November 2019 to March 2020, and found that 18.61 percent of the roads are in 'poor, bad or very bad' condition.

In 2016, it surveyed 16,620 km of roads, and found 37.28 per cent of them are in 'poor, bad and very bad' condition.

Comparing the HDM reports and RHD's allocations since 2016, it is found that the agency received Tk 14.78 billion against the demand for Tk 124.75 billion in FY 2016-17, creating 88 per cent backlog.

HDM 2017 placed the demand for Tk 162.96 billion, and received Tk 21.91 billion.

Since FY 2013-14, RHD's maintenance budget increased the highest by 48 per cent in 2017-18. Budget allocation in rest of the years increased from 1.0 per cent to 11 per cent.

smunima@yahoo.com

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