THE government is yet to begin proper repairs of around 1,000 kilometres of roads and highways that were damaged by the recent flood. This shows government negligence in ensuring smooth and safe road travel. Of the road infrastructure damaged, 195.3 kilometres are national highways, 167.6 kilometres are regional highways and the 641 kilometres are district roads. Till Monday, 205.53 kilometres of roads had been under flood water and 15.591 kilometres washed out. Roads in 31 districts are affected and the worst affected districts are Sirajganj, Rangpur, Cox’s Bazar, Naogaon, Kurigram, Pabna, Feni, Chattogram, Jamalpur and Gaibandha. The Roads and Highways Department is reported to have sent a proposal to the ministry seeking Tk 480.57 crore in an urgent allocation for long-term repairs of the damaged highways and roads. The department also sought Tk 149.95 crore to repair the roads immediately under a short term.
The rundown condition of this large portion of highways and roads provides a pointer to the ministry’s predilection for rhetoric about highways although potholes and water stagnation on many stretches have become a cause of concern for citizens. Although the minister gave an assurance of safe, smooth travel around Eid, it did not happen. The fact is that the minister leaves orders to complete repairs of roads and highways, but there is hardly any initiative by the department concerned to comply with his instructions. It has unfortunately become commonplace for the past few years that despite potholed roads and highways hogging the headlines and many fatal traffic accidents taking place because of this, the authorities wake up from their slumber to repair those only before Eid. Such hasty repair works, needless to say, are done at the cost of huge public money compromising with the quality. In the wake of twin flooding in 2017, the roads had remained in a bad shape for long, imposing constraints on the travel of people.
The minister earlier pledged to come out of his predecessors’ failure to ensure smooth and safe journey for travellers. But passengers continue to face trouble on the roads and highways as almost nothing changed. The minister needs to realise that he is there to mean business, not to play to the gallery. It is imperative for the ministry to allocate the money early to fix the damaged roads and highways before it is too late.