Monday, June 24, 2024

Abul blames all but himself

Battered Highways
Abul blames all but himself
Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain yesterday blamed the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) for the miserable conditions of the highways across the country.
During a visit to the damaged Dhaka-Mymensingh Highway, the minister also put the blame on lack of fund and unplanned tall buildings and illegal set-up by the road for its dilapidated condition.
The RHD has hurriedly embarked on repair at Bhogra bypass roundabout on the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway to keep the inter-district transport moving ahead of the Eid-ul-Fitr.
The minister travelled up to Mawna intersection along with top RHD officials to see for himself the damaged highway.
“The Roads and Highways Department has earned such a bad name that neither the finance ministry nor development partners agree to release road repair fund easily,” the minister told reporters.
The RHD is definitely responsible for today’s dilapidated highways, he said, regretting the public sufferings caused by the damaged roads.
Md Sumon, a local resident in Bhogra, said he had always seen potholes on the highway being filled up with brick chips. As a result, damaged parts returned to the sorry state within a few days.
Locals identified a three-kilometre stretch of the highway from Mugholkhal Bijoy Sarak to Bhogra roundabout as the worst portion with large potholes and ditches. They said traffic movement through Mawna and Bhogra is very risky as vehicles get stuck in the potholes and some even overturn.
The minister directed the Gazipur district administration to start demolition of makeshift illegal structures occupying the RHD land from today.
“But it is not possible to remove the permanent structures immediately,” he observed.
He admitted the repair work would not sustain due to rains, but the government had to undertake it as a temporary solution ahead of Eid.
He once again blamed the finance ministry for not releasing the repair and maintenance funds in time.
As the reporters pointed out that the finance minister publicly denied the allegation, Abul Hossain said, “I don’t want to engage in a debate over this issue.”
He said water remains stagnant on the highways as unplanned buildings and factories have destroyed the drainage system, causing colossal damage to the roads and highways.
Asked what he has done to save the roads, Abul Hossain said, “We can’t just knock down such big buildings and factories.” Blaming the last government for “leasing and selling” huge RHD land, he said it is now very difficult to free the roads of such structures.
The minister said the prime minister has instructed his ministry to submit a report to her on monetary allocation for the road sector and expenditures over past one decade.
He added he has already asked the RHD, Bangladesh Railway, Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) to submit their respective report to his office.
Citing fund deficit, he said his ministry last year took up a two-year Tk 1,410-crore project to maintain and repair the severely damaged roads across the country.
But the ministry has so far received Tk 107 crore in last two fiscals, he added.
The ministry in the current fiscal sought Tk 5,100 crore for repairing and maintaining all the damaged roads but received Tk 690 crore.
In fiscal 2008-09, the ministry sought Tk 4,206 crore and received Tk 568 crore. The ministry got the allocation of Tk 610 crore against the demand of Tk 4,004 crore in FY 2009-10. In FY 2010-11, the ministry sought Tk 4,745 crore and received Tk 688 crore, Abul Hossain said.

-With The Daily Star input

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