A big portion of roads under the Local Government and Engineering Department (LGED) has turned dilapidated, as the organisation said 25 per cent of their road is not usable.
However, LGED has spent Tk 62.28 billion from the national exchequer in the last three years for maintenance of the roads.
LGED engineers, road experts, and local people said many unimportant roads are repaired on political consideration. But allocation was not given for repairing of many important roads. Moreover, there are questions of the quality of work. A road is usually not repaired within five years of its construction. But cracks are seen appearing on roads within a year of construction. Roads turn dilapidated within two to three years.
These roads at the village and upazila level are very important for education, health and economic activities of the local people.
Economists believe good communication is necessary for social and economic development.
As per classification of national road system of the government, LGED is in charge of roads at upazila and union level. The department is responsible to develop and repair rural roads.
Under LGED, there are 330,831 kilometers of road networks across the country. Some 45 per cent of the roads are carpeted while 55 per cent muddy.
Allocation for maintenance
The government has allocated Tk 30 billion in the fiscal year of 2022-23, which is Tk 5.70 billion more than the previous fiscal.
LGED engineers said 50 per cent of the roads remain in good shape all the time, while 25 per cent of roads need to be repaired while 25 per cent are not usable. Dilapidated roads are mainly in the rural areas. Many roads are repaired on priority basis. Allocations are not made against the muddy roads. As a result, these roads remain dilapidated. If allocation is made, the roads are not repaired due to negligence.
The length of road from Sandiara area of Kumarkhali upazila in Kushtia to Lahinipara is 15 kilometers. Of the roads, 10 kilometers are not repaired for 17 years. Innumerable potholes are created in the road. It is hard to differentiate Whether the road is carpeted or muddy.
A tender of Tk 150 million was called to repair road from Sandiara area of Kumarkhali upazila of Kushtia to Lahinipara. The work started on 30 December 2019. The work was supposed to finish by 31 May 2020. But the contractor could not finish the work within stipulated time. Despite repeated warning, there was no improvement. Later, LGED cancelled the contract.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Kushtia LGED executive engineer Jahidur Rahman said some 70 per cent of road under LGED responsibility are suitable for movement. The remaining 30 per cent of the roads are dilapidated. A proposal has been sent to repaired rundown roads.
Among the rundown roads under LGED, one is Maizdi-Waterhat road of Sadar upazila in Noakhali. A resident, Ali Akbar who uses this road, said thousands of people travel using this road. Accidents often take place in the damaged part of the road. Five passengers were injured on Tuesday after CNG-run auto rickshaw overturned and fell into a ditch.
In Noakhali, two-third of roads under LGED is in bad shape. Out of 3,519 kilometers, 2192 kilometers needs to be repaired. Some 708 kilometers roads are entirely dilapidated.
LGED Noakhali office executive engineer Iqramul Haque said a report has been sent to the authorities for the repair of roads.
Roads don't last
There are allegations that roads under do not last long after the construction. People don't get benefits if roads break in one to two years after construction.
The length of Abdul Aziz Road at Payarpur union of Sadar upazila of Madaripur is four kilometers. The road was repaired on 31 December 2020. The road turned dilapidated within two years. During a spot visit, Prothom Alo correspondent found different parts of the road sink. Holes developed in at least 20 spots.
Several roads under LGED are not useable in Madaripur. Madaripur LGED office executive engineer Ashraf Ali Khan said a total of Tk 360 million has been allocated for the maintenance of the road in the current fiscal. A majority portion of the allocation will be spent for repair.
In the maintaining roads, LGED does four types of work. Those include re-seal of potholes developed in the road, over-lay of damaged road and widening of road. Major portion of the allocation is spent on repairing. In the 2020-21 fiscal, half of the allocation has been spent on over-lay or repair.
LGED engineers said vehicles with overloading of commodities cause damages to roads in the rural areas.
Movements of goods-laded vehicles with over 8.2 tonnes in upazila and union levels and over 5 tonnes in village level are prohibited. In reality, overweight vehicles ply. As a result, roads are damaged quickly. Moreover, excessive rain and natural calamities including floods cause damages to road.
Stakeholders, however, blamed low quality construction and corruption for the quick damage of roads as the contractors are selected on the political consideration.
LGED officials said the government is allocating money through the revenue sector for the maintenance of the road since 1992-93 fiscal. The demand of money has increased as the number of damaged roads has increased. However, the allocation is little in comparison to the required money. As a result, necessary roads cannot be repaired every year.
LGED maintenance section executive engineer ASM Mohsin said the roads, which are repaired every year, the demand of repairing roads is double. Of the allocation every year, some 75 per cent are given for upazila and union levels. Although the number of rural roads is higher, those get less priority. Upazila and union parishad repair roads which are less than two kilometers, and it they do that regularly, the situation of road will remain in good shape.
Village roads neglected
Apart from upazila and union level roads, LGED has over 257,000 kilometers roads in the villages. Over 172,000 kilometers roads are muddy. Some 67 per cent roads are muddy. LGED usually does not allocate for muddy roads.
The road stretching from Pura Basuli bazar of Khanshama upazila of Dinajpur to Monaganj is three kilometers. Brick chips are covered for three and half years. The road is yet to be carpeted. The road has turned dilapidated. Local people immensely suffer for movement.
The Institution of Engineers, Bangladesh (IEB) general secretary Shahadat Hossain said stress should be given on repairing existing roads instead of constructing new roads.
He also said LGED is interested in undertaking new big project for the construction of new roads instead of maintenance.
Staff Correspondents in Kushtia, Noakhali and Correspondents in Dinajpur and Madaripur contributed to filing this story.
*This report, originally has been published in Prothom Alo print and online editions, has been rewritten in English by Rabiul Islam.