Roads get priority, waterways ignored | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 10, 2011 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, June 10, 2011

Communications Budget

Roads get priority, waterways ignored

The new budget has allocated fund and prioritised the integration and maintenance of road network while almost ignored the waterway and railway barring some patchy improvements, said economists.
It focuses on resolving Dhaka's perennial traffic congestion with elevated expressway, Jatrabari-Gulsitan (Mayor Hanif) flyover, Mirpur-Airport Road flyover, Kuril interchange and railway overpasses at Banani and Jurain level crossings.
It also envisaged circular road, rail and waterway net work around the capital to cut tailbacks.
While a road along Dhaka flood control dam and a circular railway are at project formation and feasibility stage, dredging in the Dhaka rivers is going on for a circular waterway.
A combined allocation of Tk9,798 crore has been proposed for the development and non-development budget of roads and railway and bridges divisions, which is 29 percent higher than the revised budget of the present fiscal year.
The national budget for the 2011-12 fiscal year also has a special Road Fund for maintenance of the existing roads. It has Tk653 crore for the water transport sector.
Maintenance fund often remains under-utilised due to inefficiency, said economist Hossian Zillur Rahman, a former adviser to a caretaker government.
Though the waterway should be developed as the number one transport mode, the insignificant budgetary allocation simply indicates the extent of negligence shown to the sector, observed analysts.
Prof Anu Muhammad, who teaches economics at Jahangirnagar University, noticed no priority to the mass transportation system and projects in the budget.
It envisages modernisation of railway with Tongi-Bhairab Bazar double-lane rail track, 326-kilometre new broad gauge track, 128-km Dohazari-Cox's Bazar new line, 53-km long new track on Khulna-Mongla port route and procurement of nine locomotives.
But some experts termed such development initiatives patchy and are not meant for railway's integrated development.
With the railway and waterway neglected consistently, the communications infrastructure has developed disproportionately, noted Hossian Zillur.
According to experts, development of these transport routes would not only cut the transportation costs significantly but also could contribute to boost agriculture and conserve environment.
The government showed special interests in allocation for mega projects involving enormous funds like elevated expressway, Padma Bridge and four-lane highways, as they serve various interest groups including contractors, political lobbyists, consultants and suppliers, they observed.
Zaid Bakht, research director of Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), said wrongly chosen and poorly implemented road projects like unfinished bridges only imply waste of public resources.

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