When it rains in Dhaka, the threat of waterlogging is ever-present. Once the waters recede, the lifelines of the city – from narrow by-lanes to major roads – frequently fracture and the pitch begins to come off.
This year, the problem has been far more severe than the previous years, despite repeated pledges from city authorities to combat this nuisance once and for all.
No matter what part of the city someone lives in, be it under the Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) or Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), there is little to no chance of not complaining about the roads and the problems they cause – potholes, defaced pitch, and perennial maintenance – all resulting in sluggish traffic and incredible loss of time.
After the 2015 city corporation elections, Annisul Huq and Sayeed Khokon, both pledged Dhaka would be transformed into a “smart city” under their tenure.
Sayeed Khokon, mayor of Dhaka South, announced at the Digital World Conference 2016 in Dhaka that the city would be “smart” before 2017 calendars became obsolete.
Two years have passed and Mayor Khokon’s deadline is closer than ever, but Dhaka roads are still littered with potholes.
The pain brought by the rain
The roads of Dhaka tend to cave in by the end of every monsoon. This monsoon was no different.
Subrata Mallik, a resident of Nurjahan Road in Mohammadpur, fumed over the aggravated conditions of the roads in Mohammadpur.
“Every single year they talk about easing the life of commuters, and now look at the roads!” he spat.
Subrata said: “The smart city is a pipe dream for all the bluster and the fuss, the city corporation cannot even provide standard roads.”
From Saat Masjid to Shia Masjid in Mohammadpur, the entire road is a debacle. The road from Mohammadpur bus stand to Rayerbazar is yet another mess. There are very few words which can sum up so efficiently, that a major road in a major city hub is in such poor condition.
After the July-August downpour, roads all over Mirpur, Kallyanpur, Nakhalpara, Shantinagar, Shahjadpur, Badda and Old Dhaka are in terrible condition.
Manholes, an urban pitfall
Unfinished manhole covers jeopardise pedestrians and passengers alike. Yet so many roads in the city have their covers either missing or half-finished.
The manhole covers are now around 5-6 inches lower than the roads, whereas the box culverts used for drainage are about 5-6 inches higher than the roads.
“If you only take a look at Mirpur Road, one of the busiest roads of the city stretching from Nilkhet intersection to Mirpur Technical, you will see every problem a Dhaka road could have. Unfinished manhole covers and slabs, potholes, maintenance, missing pitch, you name it,” said Mahbub Ali, a Kallyanpur resident.
“It is a nightmare to drive a motorbike on Dhaka’s roads,” he claimed, saying: “If you try to merely get by while ignoring the flaws in the characters of the city roads, you might just have a road accident. One has to be extra-cautious when driving a motorbike in Dhaka.”
Allegations of inferior construction and curse of maintenance
Numerous people frequently question the quality of material used to construct and repair the roads.
Saiful Islam, a resident of Shahjadpur claimed regardless of rain, the roads have always had potholes due to poor construction.
“They use very little asphalt in building and repairing the roads. The contractors also use more sand than cement in construction” he alleged.
Although authorities announced there would not be any road maintenance from June to October, the reality is very different.
Fresh potholes have exposed the inferiority of the repair work. On top of all this, the monsoon maintenance has only exacerbated the problem.
The missing DSCC technologies
DSCC introduced two new technologies – Cold Asphalt Recycling Plant and Cold Milling Machine – to facilitate their road works.
The Cold Asphalt Recycling Plant is uses cold-mix asphalt recycling, a process where asphalt pavement materials are mixed with new asphalt and/or recycling agents to produce cold-base mixtures.
The Cold Milling Machine is used for highly efficient removal of asphalt and concrete pavements. In doing so, they create an even, true-to-profile base for the construction of new surface courses of uniform layer thickness.
They were inaugurated in November 2016 to make a road in Palashi. But there were no dramatic changes in DSCC roads afterwards.
DSCC Mayor Khokon reiterated that repair all the damaged roads will be repaired as monsoon ends.
For DNCC, Chief Executive Officer Mohammad Mesbaul Islam denied allegations of low quality construction material. He said the DNCC will swiftly repair the roads in their area as soon as the rain stops.
Regular repairs and maintenance has become as daily a habit as commuting, but neither the DSCC mayor nor the DNCC spokesperson could provide a reason as to why the roads are not built to weather the heavy rain, waterlogging and the heavy traffic.