50pc of LGED’s rural roads require repairs

A dilapidated road in Moallabazar of Dashmina upazila, Patuakhali on 6 February 2024.Sankar Das

The Charbishwas-Rantandi Taltala union road of Patuakhali’s Golachipa upazila is about 20km long. The entire road is in a dire state. The pitch carpeting has been damaged and brick chips have emerged. There are small and large potholes here and there. People suffer immensely while crossing the road as no renovation has been done over the past 10 years.

The road comes under the jurisdiction of the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of the Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperatives ministry. The LGED has the largest road network in the country. According to the LGED’s road maintenance unit, 50 per cent of the LGED roads always remain in good condition while another 50 per cent require renovation regularly and 25 per cent of these dilapidated roads become unusable due to lack of renovation, and almost all of these unusable roads are muddy roads in rural areas.

The dire state of LGED’s roads is also being discussed in parliament. Mentioning the bad condition of the roads in the area, the Patuakhali-3 (Golachipa and Dashmina) lawmaker SM Shahzada said in parliament on 4 February that he was embarrassed during the election campaign due to the dilapidated condition of the roads.

Satkhira-2 (Sadar) lawmaker Ashrafuzzaman also told parliament on that day, “Roads are in such a bad condition that if a pregnant woman crosses on this road she will give birth to the baby midway.”

After talking to the LGED engineers and the experts, it has been learned that several factors contribute to this depleted condition of roads. These include low-quality work by politically influential contractors, movement of vehicles carrying additional loads, excessive rainfalls, no embankment on roadside ponds, and natural calamities like floods. Another major is less allocation on road maintenance than the demand.

LGED executive engineer (road and bridge maintenance unit) Dewan Abdus Sabur told Prothom Alo a total of Tk 210 billion was needed for road maintenance in the current fiscal, but Tk 32 billion was allocated only, and a big portion of allocation goes to upazila and union roads. It is necessary to repair the large and small potholes on the newly-built roads to increase their longevity, and they are emphasising it now, he added.

No repairs for a long

About half of the paved roads are in a dilapidated condition across the Golachipa and Dashmina upazilas of Patuakhli. The LGED’s Patuakhali office source said there are 602km of paved roads in these two upazilas and 235km of these roads have turned unusable. Besides, there are 2,204km of muddy roads and more than half of them need renovation.

During a spot visit on 6 February, large to small potholes were seen on the Kalikapur-Panpatti road of Galachipa, Galachipa Sadar union-Kalagachia union road, and the road stretching from Amtala and Mollar Haat of Baharampur Union to Betagi Sankipur union to Abjabegi Bazar of Dashmina upazila.

LGED Golachipa upazila engineer Md Jahangir Alam told Prothom Alo vehicles loaded with goods weighing 8 tonnes are allowed to move on upazila and union roads, but trucks and lorries carrying 20-30 tonnes of watermelon move during watermelon harvesting season, damaging the roads. On top of that, these roads have not been repaired over the past 10 years, making the situation worse, he added.

A layer of brick chips was laid on the 1.25-km-long road stretching from Bekipul Bazaar to the Majhina area of Dinajpur’s Chiribandar upazila nearly three years ago. As no carpeting of pitch has been carried out yet, large and small potholes, as well as sands fill up the entire road. Local paddy trader Miraz Islam said, “It has been three years since the brick chip layer was given. People face suffering while moving on this road, and auto-rickshaws also charge higher fare.”

Muddy roads are most damaged

As per the government’s national road network classification, LGED is responsible for all upazila and union roads in the country, as well as the development and maintenance of village roads. According to the agency, there are 372,754 km of roads under their jurisdiction;42 per cent of these are paved roads and 58 per cent are muddy roads.

Nearly 15,000 people from at least six villages move regularly on the Poyla-Ruknai Dakhinpara road of Mahmudpur union in Melandah upazila of Jamalpur. Many large and small potholes developed on this road. It becomes nearly impossible to move on this road even after a small rainfall. Villagers have been demanding the repair of this nearly 2-kg-long road for long.

Rural roads are classified into four categories that come under the jurisdiction of LGED. These are Upazila Road, Union Road and Village Road - Type A (VRA) and part of Village Road - Type B (VRB). LGED carries out road repair on a priority basis every year, emphasising roads where more vehicles move or roads connecting union, upazila and markets. The agency allocates less money on the maintenance of the muddy roads, thus, these roads mostly remain damaged.

15pc allocation against total demand

The government is allocating funds to the LGED every year through the revenue sector, but the fund demand increased due to the rise in the number of dilapidated roads. Engineers at the LGED maintenance department said less fund is allocated than the demand, thus, it has not been possible to repair the necessary number of roads every year.

LGED sources said the agency spent about Tk 75 billion on road maintenance from the revenue sector in the past three fiscals, but the agency has a demand of Tk 591.86 billion during this period. That means they received less than 15 per cent of their demand. LGED was allocated Tk 32 billion from the revenue sector in the 2023-24 fiscal.

LGED carries out four types of maintenance work on roads. These are; resealing (filling potholes), overlay (repairing roads with moderate to heavy damage), rehabilitation of road life span and road widening. However, the agency spends a large portion of its budget on road repair.

Akhter Mahmud, professor of urban and regional planning at Jahangirnagar University, observed the LGED does not maintain quality of work despite the funding. He told Prothom Alo it is true that the LGED does not receive the funds for road maintenance as much as necessary, but work is not done accordingly despite having a fund because those who do the work are involved with the ruling party. As a result, it is difficult to maintain quality by ensuring their accountability, he added.

Referring to the authority of upazila and union parishads to repair a road less than two kilometres, Professor Akter Mahmud said that had upazila and union parishads repaired their roads in light of their jurisdiction pressure on LGED would have been eased. Besides, if maintenance is carried out on all roads gradually, ignoring political leaders’ preference, no road will remain so damaged, he added.

Sankar Das from Patuakhali, Khalil Rahman from Sunamganj and Raziul Islam from Dinajpur contributed to this report.

This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna