About 53 percent of the roads in rural Bangladesh are dilapidated largely due to use of poor quality construction materials and lack of proper maintenance.
The largest village road network in the country is constructed and maintained by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). The total length of these roads identified in three categories - roads in upazila, roads in union and rural roads - is 1 lakh 17 thousand kilometers. LGED, in a very recent survey identified 53 percent of these roads as unusable.
The condition of network of the inter-district roads across the country is also deplorable. The condition of the roads is so bad that even light weight vehicles find it hard to ply smoothly on the roads. There is no initiative to repair the dilapidated roads and highways, the LDEG findings said adding that such condition of the roads increases risks of accidents and injuries. It also said that the amount of time lost due to the slow movement of traffic is also affecting rural economy.
It takes 8 to 10 hours to cross roughly 4-hour road. Transport fares are also rising due to broken roads. Increased fares realized by transport owners are affecting the price of essential commodities sold in rural markets.
Due to such poor condition of the roads villagers are wort affected, farmers are the most affected as their produce turns costlier due to poor road communication.
High officials of LGED are blaming use of low-quality bitumen for quicker wearing out of the roads. However, experts said low-quality bitumen is not the only reason. Reason is- the contractor's work is not being properly supervised during road construction. They recommended that it is better to make rural roads concrete.
Experts have also identified some of the causes of the dilapidated condition of LGED roads. These include floods, substandard work and construction materials, irregularities, corruption, incompetent contractors, lack of maintenance and inadequate allocations.
Helaluddin Ahmed, Senior Secretary of ministry local government, said the total number of roads under the LGED is 1 lakh 17 thousand 419 kilometers. Of the total 63,244.7 km of the roads are access roads for light vehicles.
In the 2017-18 fiscal year, 49 percent of the roads in LGED's network were in good and viable condition. The amount of this road has decreased by 2 per cent in one year and stands at 47 per cent. The remaining 53 percent of the roads are said to be very poor. In other words, about 62,000 kilometers of the roads are in bad or dilapidated condition. Of these, 2,300 km of roads have been renewed in the last one year.
Khalilur Rahman, chief engineer of LGED, admits, “The roads are frequently falling apart or damaged in a short time due to construction defects. Initiatives have been taken to use high quality bitumen in all high-load roads.”
State Minister for Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives (LGRD) Swapan Bhattacharjee said, “the monitoring system could not be strengthened due to lack of manpower and vehicles. The monitoring system will be strengthened by recruiting manpower soon.”
However, experts have suggested addressing the problems with corruption and irregularities to make the roads and highways truly developed and sustainable.