Water-logging albatross  around our neck

Dhaka,  Sun,  20 August 2017
Published : 08 Aug 2017, 20:45:16
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Opinion

Water-logging albatross  around our neck

The imperative  is to embrace, prescribe and enforce modern road building and repairing  standards underpinned by best practice methods, writes Marksman
As with problems, so with solutions, the people concerned   must talk in the past, take no responsibility, trade blames, wait for sunshine to mark an end to the  rains and return to  business as usual .  As though, man's unaudited design with an inherent money spinning dimension  is  triumphing over nature's forces !

 It's no rocket science to understand though, the hideous kind of water-logging we are  suffering  today is  man-made, For there have been years of poor quality road construction, even  poorer  maintenance work, natural channels  shutting off, fragmented ground water drainage and underground  sewer network. Add to these, the lack of a holistic comprehension of problems, that of    updated expertise and absence of  authoritative oversight and auditing, the phenomenon was just waiting to happen!  

 So on the public side, one gets to hear  sighs or moans over opportunities  lost for timely intervention to have  set things right or at least buck the trend. As a result, one critical   threshold was crossed after another before the inevitable happened: A  breakdown in civic life.  

Pedestrians wading through knee- to waist-deep filthy water-- made the worse by  holes and craters underneath--, rickshaws turning turtle and transports being stranded  were compelling reasons  for crying a halt-'this far, and no further' !.'We mustn't be content with merely applying a brake here, but rebuild the basic infrastructure of roads with a vision for its sustainability. 

The statistics  just don't add up. For instance, we are told  that half of Dhaka's road network extending over 2,400 km is in  a decrepit state, meaning that 1,200 km need urgent repair. At the same time, we  feel it in our bones that  four of the five  arterial thoroughfares -- Mahakhali-Gulistan, Kuril-Rampura-Jatrabari, Pallabi-Farmgate and Gabtali-Azimpur sections -- have been almost  impassable.

Many of the road stretches have been out of order for a number of years. This calls for taking stock of the whole road infrastructure before embarking on filling in the gaps.  

The overarching imperative however is to embrace, prescribe and enforce modern road building and repairing  standards underpinned by best practice methods . 

Nearer home in Kolkata streets have metallic reinforcements making them durable. The new roads that we add to the networks contingent upon extension of the city eastward will have to be flawless with an adequate, well-funded, and of course well-audited maintenance complement.    

       It is learnt on good authority that if a road is constructed 'properly', one need'nt touch it for 15-20 years.' Since Dhaka's roads are old, a heavy repair work would keep them in shape for six to eight years, it is added. But Dhaka's soil being solid it should strengthen the roads that much more. So why Dhaka's roads are so fragile is an open secret!

Actually, what we see is a hectic road digging competition in the rainy season ostensibly  to lay utility connections. This time, amid incessant rains, the cleavages and holes the excavation exercises created were scandalously obstructive .Why the pending works of last financial year were gaping to make a cruel joke is woefully puzzling!

In the short-term, there's little  good news; when we are eager for  immediate relief we  learn  that limited brick soling would fill in big craters/holes. These may not stick under a sheet of water, especially under pressure from tyres of lorries etc. And, actual repair work may not begin until end-December.

In view of the extraordinary  circumstances ,we  feel  the government will consider bringing forward the road reconstruction to time it with the onset of the Fall, say in September-October.

In this context, the government  may take up the unfinished agenda of doing up the wretched roads beneath  the still under-construction fly-overs.

Much  has been  made about the 121mm rainfall  between 12 noon and 3:00 pm  on August 3  in Dhaka  city, the record highest since 2003. If we look around just now, we get to know that countries of Europe are experiencing unexpectedly high temperature, some have even seen bush fire for the first time.!

We too should be prepared for surprise climatic episodes.          

safarihi43@gmail.com

 
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