Over 1,000km roads damaged by flood | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, August 20, 2019 / LAST MODIFIED: 02:40 AM, August 20, 2019

Over 1,000km roads damaged by flood

RHD seeks Tk 150cr for immediate patch-up work, Tk 480cr for restoration; experts blame poor planning for huge damage

The Roads and Highways Department wants Tk 480.57 crore to properly repair about 1,000km of flood-damaged roads and highways. 

On top of this, it wants another Tk 150 crore for patch-up work to make those “usable”, RHD officials said.

“A proposal in this regard is being sent to the [road transport and bridges] ministry today [Monday],” said Abul Kalam Azad, superintendent engineer of RHD’s maintenance circle, yesterday.

The request for fund is in addition to the Tk 2,550 crore the government allocated to the RHD in fiscal 2019-20 for repairing and maintaining roads, Azad said. 

“We want the additional amount as emergency funds since there is no special fund for such a disaster,” he told this correspondent. 

According to the Flood Control Room set up at the RHD headquarters in Dhaka, 1003.9km of roads and highways had been damaged by floods this year. The country has 21,576km of national and regional highways and district roads. 

Of the affected roads, 195.3km are national highways, 167.6km regional highways, and 641km district roads. At least 15.6km of roads were washed away and seven bridges and culverts were damaged.

“We collected the information on affected roads and repair requirements from our divisional offices,” Munir Hossain, executive engineer at the control room, told this newspaper.

The RHD has 65 divisions and 31 of them were flood-affected.

WHY SO MUCH DAMAGE?

Experts blame poor planning ahead of road construction and ignoring impacts of climate change as the main reasons for floods causing so much damage to roads and resulting in high repair costs. 

In 2017, at least 5,015km of roads were affected by two floods and the RHD had to ask for an additional Tk 1,166 crore from the finance ministry for repairing them.

Transport expert Prof Shamsul Haque yesterday said flood usually causes more damage to roads in Bangladesh as roads and highways are often built blocking natural flow of water.

When a road is built this way, more culverts are needed. But engineers give this little consideration, he claimed.

Due to climate change, intensity of rain has increased, he claimed. “But we haven’t considered this climate factor while designing our roads and other infrastructure. That’s why we often see damages to large structures by floods.” 

Prof Shamsul, also a former director of Buet’s Accident Research Institute, (ARI), said absence of proper drainage system, which should be an integral part of roads, is another reason for the damage to roads and highways. The RHD and Local government Engineering Department give little emphasis on this, he said.

Asked about remedies, he said the authorities should go for climate resilient infrastructure development approach. “Otherwise, we will spend huge amounts of money every year and not see benefits.”

“Engineers and contractors doing the repairs must be held accountable for their work,” he said. Transparency and accountability in fund use must be ensured. 

Kazi Md Shifun Newaz, assistant professor of the ARI, also said the authorities should consider potential impact of climate change while designing roads and highways.

He said roads should be built considering the highest flood level and submersible roads could be constructed in suitable places. Submersible roads can stay under water for months and not get damaged. 

AK Mohammad Fazlul Karim, superintendent engineer (road design and safety circle) of RHD, admitted that many roads built decades ago were not “properly engineered structures”.

While building those, connectivity got priority over structural design. “So, when we go to work on those old roads, we find that many are not properly engineered.

“But now we are constructing properly engineered structures that would survive 10 years without any major maintenance,” he said, adding, “We also consider the climate issue and prepare climate adaptive designs for roads.”

He said they are now building roads with bases a metre above the highest flood level considering climate change impact.

THE DAMAGE 

Around 25 percent of the roads under the RHD are in “poor, bad or very bad” conditions, according to an RHD survey on 17,452km of roads in March, well before the floods.

The recent flood has worsened the situation, RHD officials said. Although, they made many roads passable ahead of the Eid rush, it would take several months to properly restore the roads, especially the district roads, they added.

The roads in Sirajganj came off worst this year compared to those in other RHD divisions. At least 185.74km of roads were damaged, including 33.74km of national highways there. 

Ashraful Islam, executive engineer of RHD’s Sirajganj division, told The Daily Star over the phone that they sought Tk 9.85 crore for patch-up work and Tk 29.40 crore for road restoration work.

He said they were not sure when or how much of the money they would get but they have made the roads “usable” with their regular road maintenance fund. The division received Tk 7.35 crore for regular road maintenance in the last fiscal year.

Rangpur had 88.5km of roads flood-damaged, Cox’s Bazar 79km, Kurigram 72.4km, Naogaon 58.75km, and Feni 57.33km. 

Roads and highways were also damaged in Jamalpur, Netrakona, Kishoreganj, Mymensingh, Bandarban, Chattogram, Lalmonirhat, Gaibandha, Moulvibazar, Sylhet, Sherpur, Sunamganj, Habiganj, Faridpur, Bagerhat, Bogura, Rangamati, Khagrachhari, Natore, Tangail, Laxmipur, Pabna, Feni, Rajshahi, Khulna and Dohazari RHD divisions, according to the Flood Control Room. 

Asked when they would get the money they seek, Superintendent Engineer Azad said, “It is not possible to say for sure ... but we have already made the roads passable using our own resources [regular repair and maintenance fund].” 

The road transport and bridges ministry would forward the proposal to the finance ministry which would have the final say regarding the allocations, he added.

Another RHD official said the finance ministry, upon receiving the proposal, usually asks them to use their regular repair and maintenance fund to patch up the roads as such allocations takes some time to process.

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