Over the past two months the media has been awash with reports on the plight of the port city residents, trapped in water-logging from incessant rains and rising tides. The water-logging has receded, leaving around 300 km of road in Chittagong city in a dilapidated state of disrepair. Vehicular movement is slow and commuters face boundless suffering.
The immediate and obvious cause of the broken roads is, of course, the water-logging, but this is not the only reason. Even before the water-logging, the roads were filled with potholes and ruts. Chittagong city corporation spends Tk 125 crore (Tk 1.25 billion)on road repairs and development every year, but to no avail. The quality of work is substandard, and the roads soon begin to disintegrate all over again. And it is common to see the repair work begin just as the rains are about to start. The rains come and it’s back to square one.
Another problem is that various agencies take up their respective work, digging up the roads as they need, and leaving them in that state after their job is done. It does not seem as if these utility agencies have any form of accountability whatsoever.
Broken roads are just one of Chittagong city’s many problems, but the price to pay is high. The businessmen there say that this pitiful plight of communications is one of the biggest obstacles to business expansion. Traffic congestion is invariable on such bad roads and this wastes work hours, harming the national economy. The World Bank says that traffic jams in Dhaka cause losses of Tk 30 thousand crore (Tk 300 billion) for Dhaka city. Economist Hossain Zillur Rahman says the losses in Chittagong city are even higher.
Effective and sustainable measures to address the problems of Chittagong’s roads are imperative. Firstly, the water-logging problem must be permanently resolved. Secondly, the quality of road repairs must be improved. Experts must be consulted to ensure sustainable systems and material for the work. Thirdly, road maintenance must be stepped up. And, fourthly, all service providing agencies of the city must work in coordination with each other.
Millions of taka is spent on road repairs, but with no tangible outcome. Things cannot continue in this manner.