Dhaka roads now resemble ‘rural roads’

Moddho Badda bazar Road under Dhaka North City. Authority is working on the construction of a drainage system for the renovation since it's unsuitable for movement. The condition has been like this for the past two months. Photo taken on Friday, 18 August, 2023.
Tanvir Ahmmed

Exasperated, truck driver Murad Hossain began by saying, “I’m in constant fear of the truck overturning. Even the rural roads are not this bad.” He was talking to this correspondent on Wednesday afternoon.

Murad has to bring his truck to Babubazar in Old Dhaka at least twice a month. He drives the entire route somehow, but is scared the moment he enters Babubazar. The road is filled with ruts and large potholes, and the truck rocks and rolls as its proceeds. He is constantly thinking, “This is it! We are going to overturn now!”

The road that goes under the Babubazar Road is 650 metres long. On one side of the road, 80 per cent of the paving has crumbled away. There are large potholes all along the way. There is mud everywhere after two days of incessant rain. The mud layer at places is one foot deep. The vehicles travel this road with much risk.

Hundreds of trucks use this road every day to carry goods to Chawk Bazar and Badamtali wholesale markets. The traders of the wholesale cloth market of Islampur, next to Chawk Bazar are also quite dependent on this road. And residents of a part of Old Dhaka also use this road to go to Sir Salimullah Medical College and Hospital (Mitford Hospital).

After the heavy rains over the last few days, it has also become risky for rickshaws and motorcycles to use this road under the Babubazar bridge. Local resident and Kotwali thana Awami League publicity and publications secretary Jahangir Sikder, speaking to Prothom Alo on Thursday, said one’s clothes are ruined with mud if one walks down this road.

The Gandaria new road is four and a half kilometers from the Babubazar bridge. This road, almost one and a half kilometers in length, is also riddled with holes. The holes are so large in some places, these become small ponds during the rains. Passengers and drivers are at extreme risk using this road.

Ibrahim Ahmed, a trader of Gandaria, told Prothom Alo, the road is in a mess. Rickshaws often fall into the holes and tip over.

It is not only this road that is in such a pitiful state. Most of the lanes and alleys of Dhaka South City Corporation face the same predicament. Sources of the city corporation say that after the present mayor Sheikh Fazle Noor Taposh took over responsibility, expenditure on road repairs and development has totaled Tk 2.43 billion (Tk 243 crore) in a span of three years. In the 2020-21 fiscal, Tk 244.7 million (Tk 24 crore 47 lakh) was spent on maintenance and development. In 2021-22 the expenditure was over Tk 1.11 billion (Tk 111 crore 12 lakh). And in 2022-23 Dhaka south city had allocated around Tk 1.07 (Tk 107 crore 50 lakh) for road repairs. Allocations for the present fiscal’s road development is Tk 2.63 billion (Tk 263 crore).

This correspondent of Prothom Alo from Monday to Wednesday went around almost 48km of road in 20 areas of Dhaka south city by motorcycle. The pitch has crumbled away along almost 35km of road, dotted with large holes. And the rain over the past few days has made life even more difficult for the people who use these roads.

Dhaka south city engineers say that the road from the Kakrail jame-masjid (mosque) till Intercontinental Hotel at Shahbagh (Hare Road) is smooth. Compared to that, 50 per cent of the south city roads need repairs. There are 1,656 km of roads under south city jurisdiction.

Dangers on the dilapidated road

From the Dayaganj intersection to Jurain railway crossing in the capital, the last repairs on the new Gandaria road took place in 2020. Just a few days after the repairs, one side of the road went under the jurisdiction of the Padma Bridge rail project. Traffic can only use one side of the road now. Vehicle drivers say the entire road is almost absolutely unfit for use.

Dhaka south city engineers say that they have no plans to begin any renovations on the road until work on the Padma railway bridge project is complete. The areas on the east and south of the Gandaria new road are under Ward 51. These areas include Mir Hazaribagh, Par Gandaria, Dolaipar (east and west), Shahjalal Lane and Nuraninagar.

Local councilor Habibur Rahman is blunt about the state of the roads here. He told Prothom Alo that only 20 per cent of the roads in this ward are fit for use. Renovation of the roads was completed two and a half years ago. But then WASA dug up the roads to lay pipes and did not repair the roads later. Around 200,000 people of his ward were suffering.

Around 3km from Gandaria, the main road of the KM Das Lane area in Tikatuli is almost entirely in shambles. The roads of the adjacent Gopibagh are in the same state. The people face all sorts of hardship using these roads. KM Das Lane and RK Mission Road are a part of Ward 39. Speaking over mobile phone to Prothom Alo about the state of the roads, ward councilor Rokon Uddin Ahmed said that most of the roads in the areas haven’t been renovated in 10 years.

In Dhaka south city, Kamarangirchar’s South Rasulpur Kazibari Road, Batteryghat main road, Biro Gram main road, Mujibur Ghat in Mominbagh, Acharwala Ghat Road of Madhya Mominbagh, Ashrafabadh Koyla Ghat, ND Road next to Lalbagh’s Makki mosque, Rajnarayan Dhar Road, Kazi Reazuddin Road, Water Works Road in Chawk Bazar, Nazimuddin Road and Bangshal’s Begum Bazar area, are all in a sad state.

The road underlying Babubazar bridge in Dhaka South City. Huge potholes have been created since the carpeting has been removed. And the potholes are full of mud. Vehicles drive along the edge taking risks while moving on this road.
Suvra Kanti Das

Tk 30 billion spend in 7 years

Sources of Dhaka couth city’s engineering department say that over the past seven years, almost Tk 30 billion (Tk 3000 crore) has been spent on development the roads. During the tenure of the former mayor Sayeed Khokan, over Tk 25 billion (Tk 2500 crore) was spent on road renovation and development. And during the tenure of the present mayor, Tk 2.43 billion (Tk 243 crore) has been spend in three years only for road renovation and development.

South city sources say in the 2016-17 fiscal around Tk 5.33 billion (Tk 532 crore 35 lakh) was spent on road maintenance and development. In 2017-18 the expenditure was Tk 7.53 billion (Tk 752 crore 37 lakh). In 2018-19 this totaled around Tk 5.27 billion (Tk 527 crore 48 lakh). And in 2019-20, the expenditure was around Tk 8.44 billion (Tk 844 crore 19 lakh) for road repairs and development.

Why do the roads not last?

Engineers of the south city say that if a road is properly developed, it should remain in good condition for at least 10 years. But now, good roads turn bad in just one and a half to two years.

On condition of anonymity, four engineers said that corruption and irregularities are a main obstacle to road development. Again, various organisations dig up the road in an unplanned manner to lay down power lines, gas connections and water connections. Rules, regulations and qualifications of are often ignored in the appointment of contractors for road development and renovation. It is not assessed if the contractors are competent for the job, It is a matter of liking. There is also a lack of supervising the contractors.

For example, the engineers pointed out, a work order had been given to complete the renovation work of Old Dhaka’s Kazi Alauddin Road’s roads and drains within six months. The work was to have been completed by December 2021, but the contractors have been unable to complete the work till now. The contractor cannot even be pressurized to complete the work as he is close to the mayor. If the work entailing around Tk 70 million (Tk 7 crore) was completed, the waterlogging in the area would have been resolved. The broken roads would have been repaired.

Even 19 months after the work deadline for Kazi Alauddin Road and drain repairs has ended, only 60 per cent of the renovation been done. Prothom Alo has learnt that this work on road and drain renovation is being done by contractor Kazi Morshed Hossain. He is the joint general secretary of Dhaka city south Awami League.

There was also discrimination in the city corporation when it came to road renovation. Developed areas were given more attention than the relatively less developed areas. Yet the city corporation was collecting taxes from the residents of all areas.
Adil Mohammed Khan, Professor of urban and regional planning, Jahangirnagar University

When asked when the work would be complete, contractor Kazi Morshed on Friday told Prothom Alo over mobile phone that the work has been held up due to rains. Water has collected on the roads. The work will be complete within this month. He did not have any clear explanation as to why a six-month task was taking 26 months.

Prothom Alo contacted Dhaka South City Corporation Chief Executive Office Mizanur Rahman over mobile about why most of the roads were in a bad state despite millions being spent every year on road development and renovation. After listening carefully to the matter, he responded by advising this correspondent to speak to the corporation’s chief engineer Ashiqur Rahman. Attempts were made to reach Ashiqur Rahman over mobile phone, but he did not reply. He did not reply to the SMS either.

Urban planner Adil Mohammed Khan feels that the problem was worsening because the city corporation had no plans as to which year which areas’ roads would be developed and repaired. He told Prothom Alo, if there had been any plans, then the city corporation would be aware which road was to be repaired and when. Now they are simply relying on assumption and whatever meets the eye.

Adil Mohammed Khan, who is a professor of urban and regional planning at Jahangirnagar University, said that not being able to ensure the quality of road renovation is also a big weakness of the city corporation. He said there was also discrimination in the city corporation when it came to road renovation. Developed areas were given more attention than the relatively less developed areas. Yet the city corporation was collecting taxes from the residents of all areas.