• Monday, October 20, 2014

Battered Highways

Quick fix breeds graft

Does little to improve condition

Staff Correspondent

The communications ministry spends around Tk 1,000 crore a year on repair and maintenance of about 2,000-kilometre roads and highways to keep those fit for traffic.

Part of the amount is paid out for repairing badly damaged roads and highways during the rainy season to lessen the suffering of passengers.

This temporary measure, which has become a major source of corruption, has been around for years although it hardly improved the condition of roads, said ministry officials.

Graft, they added, eats up a lion's share of the fund, leading to poor repair works.

The ministry received around Tk 1,100 crore in the last fiscal year (2013-14). Apart from paying salary and other benefits to the staff, the money was spent for repair and maintenance of dilapidated roads.

Of the amount, Tk 600-700 crore was spent for major repair work like overlaying of roads, while Tk 80-100 crore went for repair works by the Roads and Highways Department (RHD).

The ongoing repair works are being done by the RHD. Its executive engineers in all the districts get an allocation to buy bricks, bitumen and stones to mend potholes on roads in the rainy season.

According to contractors and insiders of RHD, half of its repair fund is embezzled by corrupt people.

This year, the ministry has received around Tk 1,300 crore, most of which will be spent till the rainy season next year.

But such repairs are not sustainable as many roads and highways are very old and cannot be improved much through temporary measures.

Out of 21,000 km national, regional and district roads and highways under the RHD, about 456- km national highway, 573 km regional and 911 km district roads are in bad shape and needed reconstruction, according to a recent study by the RHD.

The ministry is trying to keep the roads fit for traffic with temporary repairs as reconstruction is very costly.

Communications Secretary MAN Siddique said the ministry has a plan to reconstruct badly damaged roads in phases.

A project has been taken up to rebuild the Joydebpur-Chandra road. Besides, the existing two-lane Dhaka-Mymensingh highway is being reconstructed under the four-lane project, he told The Daily Star.

On misappropriation of repair and maintenance fund, the secretary said, “We have started e-tendering. We are also laying emphasis on quality of work and it is the responsibility of all to ensure it.”

 

Published: 12:01 am Friday, July 25, 2014

Last modified: 10:50 pm Friday, July 25, 2014

TAGS: communications ministry Roads and Highways Roads and Highways Department Battered Highways RHD

Leave your comments | Comment Policy
BIT DEFENDER