20pc roads in sorry state | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 08, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:25 AM, July 08, 2020

20pc roads in sorry state

RHD wants Tk 14,622cr to fix them; gets Tk 2,850cr allocation

Around 20 percent roads under the Roads and Highways Department are in "poor, bad or very bad" condition and Tk 14,622 crore would be required to fix those in the current fiscal year, according an RHD survey.

But the government has allocated Tk 2,850 crore -- almost one fifth of the required amount -- in the budget and that too for repair and maintenance of all roads and bridges across the country.

It means the condition of the dilapidated roads, especially those in the districts, is likely worsen as they might not get priority for the repair work due to the fund crunch, said experts, including RHD engineers.

Such roads and also those with light traffic presence are often left unrepaired for long due to lack of funds, they said.

Experts said poor road condition is one of the major causes behind road accidents, which claim thousands of lives in the country every year.

Prominent transport expert Prof Shamsul Hoque said due to a lack of proper maintenance, potholes appear on roads, and accidents take place when vehicles drive into these potholes at speed.

Waterlogging caused by poor drainage system and overloaded vehicles are the two main causes why roads in Bangladesh are damaged, he said, adding that inadequate allocation for the maintenance work only deteriorates the situation. 

THE SURVEY

According to the RHD, there are 22,096km of national and regional highways and district roads under the department across the country.

The RHD carries out the survey every year to project the total maintenance costs for its road network and also to prioritise on roads for maintenance.

The latest survey was done between November 2019 and March this year. The report was released on the RHD website on Monday.

The department surveyed 19,282km roads. Ongoing projects and roads in some remote areas were not taken into account, according to the report.

The survey found some 3,590kms (18.61 percent) of the roads in "poor, bad or very bad" condition.

The rest are in "good" or "fair" condition, according to the survey.

Those in fair condition (4,482kms), especially the national highways, will also need repair to upgrade them to good category; otherwise they would downgrade to poor category, RHD engineers said.

Roads with huge cracks and potholes that need immediate repair are treated as "very bad" roads, they said.

The previous survey report in May last year found 4,247kms (24.34 percent) of roads and highways in "poor, bad or very bad" condition.

Among 10 zones of the RHD, highest 572km of poor to very bad roads are in Cumilla zone. Chattogram comes second, with 556km of such roads, according to the report.

Rajshahi zone has 175.93kms of poor to very bad roads, the lowest. Gopalganj zone has the second lowest share of bad roads with 184.09km roads.

In the last fiscal year, the RHD got Tk 2,550 crore for maintenance of roads and bridges, up slightly from Tk 2,350 crore the previous fiscal year.

This year, the RHD needs Tk 727.4 crore for routine maintenance, Tk 5,855.2 crore for periodic maintenance, Tk 3,277 crore for partial reconstruction and Tk 4,762.6 crore for full reconstruction, according to the Maintenance and Rehabilitation Needs Report.

Amir Hossain, executive engineer (HDM database division) of the RHD, said the latest survey gave a positive picture of the country's road maintenance situation, compared to the previous year's.

He said 20 percent more district roads, 14 percent more regional highways and 6 percent more national highways fall under "good" category compared to last year. But more focused should be given on improving maintenance work of national highways as it is difficult to do so due to the rush of traffic, he added.

Replying to a question, Amir said, "If you don't give adequate allocation to maintenance, good roads would turn into poor and poor roads into bad or very bad roads."

He also told The Daily Star, "In our country, there are huge investments in development projects, but the authorities should also give importance on road maintenance and should increase allocation in this regard."

Mohammed Abul Kalam Azad, superintendent engineer (maintenance circle) of the RHD, said there is some limitation when it comes to allocating money for road maintenance. "But if the allocated money can be used in a planned way, it's possible to maintain roads with that fund," he said.

"We are trying our best to use the money properly," he said.

RECOMMENDATIONS

The survey report came up with seven recommendations on carrying out the maintenance work properly. Those include regular field visits and design verification by the authorities before finalising any repair work

The report said the full or partial reconstruction works should be addressed from the annual development programme (ADP). Besides, works should be accelerated to change the condition of national highways to "good" from "fair".

"Routine maintenance has to be done properly and should be the first budget priority," it said, adding that small contracts (up to TK 30 million) should be avoided to ensure quality work.

The RHD has been using the Highway Development and Management Model (HDM-4 Software), an economic tool, since 1999-2000 for optimisation of the fund disbursement. Since then, it has been publishing the survey report every year.

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