Though the road construction cost in Bangladesh is the highest in the world, quality roads are hardly made for lack of proper monitoring by the authorities concerned and the accountability of construction firms, said experts.
Talking to the news agency, construction expert and noted civil engineer Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury, Buet's civil engineering department Professor Shamsul Haque and urban and regional planning department Professor Sarwar Jahan, and ex-UGC chairman and urban expert Prof Nazrul Islam said good road design, its proper implementation, use of quality materials, load management, strong monitoring and timely implementation of the projects are crucial to ensure quality road construction at reasonable costs.
Officials at the Road Transport and Highways Division and Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) said over 2,000km roads are needed to repair every year only because of overloaded vehicles.
They said there are 2.85 lakh km roads under the LGED while some 21.03 lakh km highways and district roads under the Road Transport and Highways Division.
In a report on June 20 last, the World Bank presented a list of infrastructure costs, especially in road construction. It shows the cost of per kilometre road construction is $2.5 million to $11.9 million in Bangladesh, which is the highest in the world.
Prof Jamilur Reza Choudhury said good designs and their full implementation and proper construction are necessary for making high quality highways, roads and bridges.
He said most bridges are being constructed in the country ensuring international standard with strong monitoring. “Jamuna Bridge was constructed nearly 20 years back, and it's still in good shape. Padma Bridge is also being constructed maintaining the international standard.”
Shamsul Haque said the most construction firms having political link and clout rarely ensure quality road construction for lack of proper monitoring by the government authorities concerned. “Government engineers must be present to ensure quality during the construction work on roads, but they remain absent in most cases.”
Besides, he said, the roads are not properly maintained after construction. “If any small hole is created on any road, it's not fixed immediately. The authorities concerned wait for repair until the most parts of the road get damaged. We should come out of such practice as it increases the maintenance cost.”
Haque said roads will have to be kept free from rainwater stagnation as water is the biggest enemy to bitumen. “Roads and highways must be constructed with good designs so that rainwater can easily and promptly pass through those.”
The renowned engineer also said the road foundation should be much stronger for its sustainability. “The road pavement also should be constructed with ensuring proper compaction and heat.”
The Buet professor thinks the road construction cost will come down if the projects are implemented timely without extending their deadlines.
Sarwar Jahan said though the construction cost has marked a sharp rise over the years, the quality 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. More importantly, there is little monitoring ...all these things lead to the quick destruction of road surfaces," he observed.
"It's also surprising that the road construction is very high in Bangladesh though labour cost is very cheap here," Sarwar said.
He said lack of accountability of the road construction firms is the major reason behind high road construction cost and poor quality. "Politicians are now involved with many construction firms. So, when they fail to maintain proper design and quality during road construction, no one dare make them accountable."
Prof Nazrul said inefficiency in construction, corruption, and lack of accountability and monitoring are the major reasons behind the exorbitant cost of road construction and poor quality work. "We pay high, but get low quality work for these reasons."
He said the government can form a separate body or committee involving experts from Buet and officials from the Anti-Corruption Commission to monitor road construction work.
Road Transport and Highways Division secretary MAN Siddique said they are not getting cooperation of the transport owners in controlling overloaded vehicles.
Roads and Highways Department superintendent engineer (road design) Fazlul Karim said they design the highways with 20 years of lifespan allowing the highest 10-tonne load vehicles. "But the vehicles permitted to carry 10 tonnes usually carry up to 20 to 30 tonnes of goods. "The roads get damaged when two-axle vehicles pass on those carrying over 30 tonnes of goods."
Besides, he said, bitumen is washed away quickly in the case of water stagnation.
He admitted that quality roads are not built in many cases for lack of proper monitoring and insincerity of the contractors.