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Precarious state of roads and highways

Slow progress in completing the country’s major roads and highways projects has been a major hindrance to achieving the desired inter-modal transport mix of the government's transport strategy
Prof. Sarwar Md. Saifullah Khaled
Precarious state of roads and highways

A sorry state of affairs it is that all are to be concerned over the bad state of roads and highways across the country. It is because all of them have to face similar tremendous trouble countrywide while making a journey through these precarious roads and highways. Crumbling roads and highways in all most all the districts across the country have become serious deathtraps for traveling commuters as their maintenance remains elusive. The vehicles carrying tens of thousands of passengers or huge volume of goods everyday run from one corner to another throughout the country on these routes. Unfortunately, these vehicles are to meet breakdowns or accidents because of the worsening conditions of the country’s national roadways. It is a common place experience that the passengers often fail to reach their destinations on time as vehicles crawl along these decrepit roads and highways. Moreover, such dilapidated roads and highways also seriously damage the plying vehicles shortening their life span that fortunately escape accidents.
It is frequently observed that the carelessly constructed highways and other roads of the country are not repaired or rebuild immediately after they are damaged. It is a common scene observed by the commuters and Lorry drivers of the country everywhere in all seasons. Especially before the occasion of Eid-ul-Fitre and Eid-ul-Azha, holidaymakers invariably face a tough time travelling on these sorry states of roads and highways. At present, in the country, the total length of the national highways is 3,790.86 km and that of the regional highways is 4, 06.52 km, while district roads stretch for 13,126.13 km. Though the concerned authorities occasionally undertake some makeshift maintenance work here and there, invariably it looks unlikely to be enough for easy run of vehicles due to rain and the heavy volume of traffic on these roads.

According to a World Bank (WB) report it will not be possible for Bangladesh to achieve seven per cent Gross Domestic Product (GDP) growth without upgrading along with other infrastructure the country’s roads and highway network. It is also presumed that if Bangladesh wants to get out of the six-percent growth trap, it has to quickly implement the key projects like Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Mymensingh highways. The sorry state of roads and highways countrywide can be attributed to substandard work of the road constructing contractors, poor surveillances, negligence and corruption of the construction engineers, incessant rainfall during monsoon season. The slow pace of work that is being conducted on the four-lane project of Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Mymensingh highways is also to be blamed. And it is widely viewed that the bad shape of the roads and highways is one of the key reasons behind frequent road accidents to the loss of huge number of valuable lives in the country.

A recent survey conducted by the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) entitled “Road Safety in Bangladesh: Realities and Challenges”, said that 95 per cent of the accidents take place within 57 km of nine national  highways, making them “the most accident-prone” spots. According to a list prepared by the RHD, presently in the country, there are 208 accident black spots where most of the road accidents frequently occur. It has also mentioned that the faulty road designs are one of the few primary causes behind frequent accidents. The survey also pin pointed that as repair and maintenance of the roads and highways are done on a temporary basis mainly and crudely with bricks, brickbats and sand, numerous potholes and cracks develop on roads because of downpour and/or repeated heavy use of those which increases the chance of fatal accidents.

Slow progress in completing the country’s major roads and highways projects has been a major hindrance to achieving the desired inter-modal transport mix of the government's transport strategy. Any sort of unsustainable short-term solution like repeated and occasional repairing crudely for road safety is not only a death-trap for commuters but also an exercise in wasteful spending. An uninterrupted year-long vigilant action plan for appropriate maintenance and repair of roads and highways devoid of negligence and corruption, regular updating of the list of accident black spots and priority action plans for their improvement deserve attention from the policymakers. The volume of infrastructure investment has increased but it is still considerably lower than the 7 to 10 per cent needed annually for the next 10 years. Road safety is a must for the commuters’ comfortable journey and to save the millions of commuters’ lives on the move and the loss of transport vehicles and goods transported through roads and highways every day across the country.  
 
The writer is a retired Professor of Economics, BCS General Education Cadre

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Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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