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OPINION

Of quality road construction and repair

Shahiduzzaman Khan | Published: July 10, 2019 21:37:47


Although the government has allocated a substantial chuck of money for building multipurpose bridges, elevated expressway, metro rails and other mega projects, the existing roads and highways throughout the country remain in a dismal condition.

A survey of the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) says over half of the country's roads are in a dilapidated state and need immediate repairs. This requires Tk 100 billion. Yet unfortunately, the allocation for this purpose in the current fiscal is only Tk 25.50 billion.

A government survey says the country's 25 per cent roads are in a bad shape. Only 50 per cent of the country's 17,000 km of roads can be said to be in a good state. This clearly indicates that both repairs and maintenance are being neglected. No wonder road journey is risky.

Indeed, there should be some sort of balance between the allocations for mega projects and that for maintenance of the existing roads. Communications and transport development must be seen in a holistic manner. Surely, the government wants to get optimum benefit from mega projects. If so, how can over 4,000 km of roads remain still risky?

It is obvious that people will have to traverse those 17,000 km of roads if they want to avail metro rail trains (MRT), bullet trains or modern aircraft. Traffic congestion very often grips the main roads and highways of the country. If these roads are not repaired, the situation will simply worsen. People's sufferings will know no bounds.

What the government should do is to change its strategy in allocating funds for communication infrastructure. And this has to be a long-term plan, not just for the current year. It has to be done in coordination with the mega projects. If repairs and maintenance are really overlooked, mega projects will not bring optimum benefits.

The government is now implementing a revised strategic transport plan for the capital and its surrounding areas. Such a plan requires adequate funds for repair and maintenance. The roads in the capital itself are filled with ruts and potholes. It appears that the authorities should give due consideration to the Roads and Highways' survey and take action accordingly. Over the past one decade, around 25,000 people were killed in road accidents. It was not only due to faulty vehicles and inefficient drivers, the bad state of the roads and mismanagement are also responsible to some extent.

Indeed, dilapidated road condition, badly managed intersections, disrespect for traffic rules and an overwhelming number of vehicles have not only turned the country's highways extremely dangerous but also raised travel time between the capital and the rest of the country.

Most of the road network of major roads in the country has become pot-holed due to lack of maintenance for months and in many cases for years. Despite the highest budget allocation in communication sector, why the condition of roads is so bad remains a big question.

It's also surprising to note that the road construction cost in Bangladesh is the highest in the world in spite of the fact that the labour cost is very cheap here. Though the construction cost has marked a sharp rise over the years, the quality has declined as roads are not designed properly considering the increased flow of traffic, mainly heavy vehicles and their load. The load capacity of roads is not increasing because of the use of substandard construction materials.

Lack of accountability of the road construction firms is, in fact, the major reason behind high road construction cost and poor quality. Political clout is allegedly dominating the country's construction firms as well. As such, when such firms fail to maintain proper design and quality during road construction, none dare make them accountable.

Inefficient knowledge of construction and corruption in material purchases are other reasons behind the exorbitant cost of road construction and poor quality work. Also, there is a lack of monitoring on the part of the government agencies. All these things lead to quick destruction of road surfaces.

All said and done, good road design, proper implementation, use of quality materials, load management, strong monitoring and timely implementation of projects are critically important for ensuring quality road construction at reasonable costs.  

szkhanfe@gmail.com

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