Monsoon rain cripples roads


As the road transportation has gradually spiked over the years with the improvement in connectivity between, cities, towns and villages, conditions of dilapidated roads and highways and district-level roads across the country are deteriorating rapidly due to monsoon rain.

Sorry state of roads condition poses risks and inconveniences for the travelers as both local and foreign investors may not evince interest in investing in the country, shows a survey report.

Country’s 3,591 kilometre roads and highways are in bad shape dotted with big hole, says a highway development and maintenance (HDM) study.

HDM, a wing of roads and highways department responsible for providing information for road maintenance and development planning, in its study says it is immediately needed to repair the dilapidated roads and highways.

HDM publishes report on the condition of roads and highways every year. The survey was conducted in compliance with the International Roughness Index (IRI). The report for the year 2020-21 after the survey from November last year to March this year was released on Tuesday, published the Maintenance and Rehabilitation Needs on its website.

Muhammad Rabiul Alam, supervising engineer of the HDM department of the RHD, said the report is being published on an annual basis.

According to the report, Tk 14,622 crore is required for the reconstruction, repair and maintenance of broken roads in the fiscal year 2020-21. Of which, there is an urgent need of Tk 8,460 crore. But in the current year's budget, the RHD has been allocated Tk 2,860 crore.

RHD officials said there is little allocation each year compared to demand. As a result, proper reconstruction, repair and maintenance of roads and highways cannot be done.

However, the people involved in the communication sector said that the construction of the road is done with corruption and irregularities. Poor road condition is one of the major causes behind road accidents, which claim thousands of lives in the country every year.

Roads-Highways are divided into five categories by IRI, these are - good, moderate, fragile, bad and very bad. According to RHD officials, the roads and highways that have been identified as very bad are actually unsuitable for traffic. As such, 943 km of roads in the country are not suitable for traffic.

Dhaka-Chittagong-Teknaf is the country's main highway (N-1). This highway has been made four lanes from Comilla to Chittagong City Gate only three years ago.

However, there are wrecks in 20 places on the highway. Similarly, the work of Dhaka-Mymensingh (N-3) four lane project was also completed in 2017. In three years, 60 places on this highway have been damaged.

Similarly, the condition of Dhaka-Sylhet, Dhaka-Barisal, Dhaka-Khulna, Dhaka-Rajshahi and other highways is not good.
However, regional highways and district roads are in worse condition than national highways. In all, more than three and a half thousand kilometers of roads and highways in the country are currently damaged.

Of the 3,743 km of national highways considered in the survey, 2,432 km or about 65 per cent are in good condition. 15 percent of the national highways are in good condition. The remaining 20 percent are broken. Dhaka, Khulna and Rangpur are the best national highways in 10 zones of RHD. The worst situation is in Sylhet, Comilla and Chittagong zones.

Rangpur, Rajshahi and Barisal zones have the best condition of regional highways. The worst condition is in Comilla, Dhaka and Sylhet zone roads.

The report also shows that as for district roads under the department highest 139 km are in very bad condition in Cumilla zone followed by 92 km in Mymensingh, 90 km in Chattogram and 81 km in Khulna zones.

Highest 104 km district roads in Cumilla zone are in bad condition followed by 102 km both in Chattogram and Mymensingh zones.

Highest 171 km district roads in Mymensingh zone are in poor condition followed by 161 km in Cumilla, 151 km in Chattogram, 136 km in Khulna and 105 km in Dhaka zones.

According to the Maintenance and Rehabilitation Needs Report of 2019-2020, 5.83 per cent surveyed highways and roads were in very bad, 5.84 per cent in bad, 12.67 per cent in poor, 25.68 per cent in fair and 49.98 per cent were in good conditions.
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.

Meanwhile, out of 11,102 km of district roads, 7,220 km or 65 percent are in good condition. 15 percent of the district roads are passable and 20 percent of the roads have become unusable. The worst situation is in Sylhet, Chittagong, Mymensingh, Khulna and Comilla zones.

Concerned people said that water logging caused by poor drainage system and overloaded vehicles are the two main causes why roads in Bangladesh are damaged and inadequate allocation for the maintenance work only deteriorates the situation.

It is not possible to improve the condition of roads and highways just by spending money, said Professor of Civil Engineering Department of Bangladesh University of Engineering (BUET), Shamsul Haque. He said the maintenance of roads and highways in this country is very bad. Every year after the rains the roads have to be repaired. This culture does not exist anywhere else in the world.

RHD is divided into 10 zones across the country. According to the survey, the condition of roads and highways in Rangpur zone is the best. The worst condition is on the roads and highways of Sylhet and Chittagong.

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.

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, "Routine maintenance has to be done properly and should be the first budget priority."