“A few days ago I went to Khilgaon from Baridhara to attend a programme. It was Friday, so I thought it would take half an hour to go. But, due to severe traffic jam, it took about two hours to reach. I couldn’t attend the programme on time. There were not much vehicles on the road. The reason of the traffic jam was different sign boards here and there writing ‘Road stopped, development work is going on’. God knows when these development works will be finished,” it was how Meskat Rahman, a resident of Baridhara area, shared his experience about the recent road digging and development works.
Road digging in the name of development work has become a common scenario in Dhaka. Both Dhaka North and Dhaka South city corporations’ inhabitants claimed that the state-run several agencies like, Dhaka WASA, DPDC, BTCL, DNCC and DSCC, take up their routine development works which require road digging almost every year. Most of the time they have to work at the same place, they dig up the place several times for their individual projects instead of doing it all at the same time. It causes awful sufferings to the city dwellers. Especially during the monsoon season the situation turns more miserable. During digging sewerage line and surface water line become merged and flooding the road filthy water remains stagnant for a long period of time.
Saima Jahan, a resident of Mirpur, said, “I cannot understand why a same road has to dig several times in a year. Even, WASA and other agencies have to dig roads every year more than ever during monsoon season. A heap of soil was created due to the excavation work. We cannot move comfortably due to all the dug up mud on the road, and it gets worse when it rains.”
It’s a matter of great regret that people do not know when and how the digging will be ended as the utility agencies keep their eyes close to people’s sufferings. If an agency starts digging a certain road and completes works, then another one comes to dig it again, which cause people’s terrible experience over the years. While visiting different areas of the city including Malibagh, Mouchak, Santibagh, Mogbazar, Mirpur, Shewrapara, Gulshan, Badda, Banani and some other areas, different utility agencies were seen upgrading their supply line beside the roads.
Many people think that the absence of coordination among the utility agencies implementing development projects has brought the city traffic to its knees apart from flushing public money down the drain. Sarwar Ahmed, a businessman of Malibagh, stated that, “Since the beginning of the construction works we have been facing the difficulties as the road has gone under the flyover. Moreover this year at least three utility authorities have dug the road. 10 days after DPDC completed setting their under-ground cable line, the road has been dug again for repairing drainage line. Due to these problems, we can hardly sell our products. Sometimes we have to provide discount up to 50 percent on our goods. If the service providers had coordination, they could complete work in time.
In that case public sufferings would decrease and we could run our business comfortably.”
Every year, the city dwellers witness road digging by different agencies ahead of the monsoon. But what are the reasons behind it? Why these projects were not undertaken in the dry season? Why not when the roads were originally paved?
It is a mystery that why these agencies did not start their digging in the dry season. Everybody knows that the budgetary fund was available from July last year and the planning (if there is any) of the work not delayed up to monsoon. They could be accomplished in wintertime. There is a perception among the common people that the city corporation officials and other utility providers wait for the rainy season because diggings, setting up new pipelines or repairs old ones require more cost in rainy days and the time makes the way easier to misuse of public fund. Similarly, carpeting of dug roads also claim more cost while much of the work get washed or damaged in rainwater to be repaired again next year.
Munjurul Islam, a resident of Banasree area, stated that, “The Road No 8 at Goran has been blocked for setting up pipelines for more than a month. The residents of Goran and South Banasree areas cannot even use rickshaw, as the alternative roads are not good for the use. It is nothing but punishment for us. The roads in our area are dug up almost every year in the name of development. Why the authorities choose the rainy season for the projects. It is nothing but embezzling government fund.”
According to officials, the construction firms are given 28 days time for completing the renovation work according to agreements with the DSCC and the DNCC and other agencies, but they can't complete the task in the prefixed timeframe. Some other rules and guidelines have also to be maintained during work on city roads. The firms and the utility service providers, however, ignore all these guidelines, posing danger to the road users of the city.
Sometimes it feels like a deliberate lapse designed to keep things messy to do it all over again, not once but repeatedly, as something of a money-spinner. The excavation of roads begins at the end of the financial year coinciding with the rainy season, as often bureaucratic complexities lingers necessary allocation for the development agencies. When the authorities need to complete the projects before they are given fresh allocation for the next year, they remind of completing the year’s development projects. Road digging is not only synonymous with traffic jam and water logging, it is also sheer waste of time and national wealth, not to forget the poor quality work as a result of rushing to the finishing line in record time. If someone is looking for any monumental evidence of corruption and mismanagement, he has to only plumb deeper into the road-digging exercise. We simply fail to understand why these services are not integrated under one authority in terms of planning and implementation of city development projects. We have heard many a time in the past about coordination between the services. There was even a one-stop cell formed by Dhaka City Corporation to coordinate road digging and repairing, but nothing has improved.
There is a strong need for a synergy of actions that should include measure to work out a proper co-ordination among the DNCC, DSCC, PDB, DESA, WASA, BTCL and Titas gas. The urgency of such co-ordination must be taken in a proper way by the government in order to save a huge amount of money involved in road cutting, filling and carpeting. City corporations, Rajuk, DPDC and other agencies are implementing their plans in the capital on according to their will, but works of all the agencies must be brought under a strong and single authority to ensure coordination among them. Different organisations perform their tasks by their own planning. There is no development plan for 20 to 30 years. So, the renovation work is done following short-term plans. And these works ultimately do not last long. So, plans are changed repeatedly. And continuous road digging is the result of the short-term planning.
Every year rainy season comes and goes, several news and articles publish in the newspapers, where the city dwellers express their sufferings due to digging roads but the scenario remain unchanged. Experts and the organisations suggest some ways of remedy. Steps to rigor coordination among utility agencies lead by the mayors of the city corporations are suggested many a times. Unfortunately, the respective governments remain silent about the issue. But, things can’t go on like this. The authorities should be aware of increasing mass sufferings and woes.
NB: The report was first published in Morning Tea, a weekly magazine of the daily sun, on 5 May, 2017