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Could roads from recycled plastics change Dhaka?

  • Published at 11:05 pm October 22nd, 2020
Road Under construction
File photo of a road under construction Bigstock

Being inspired by the plastic road concept, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has been using such technologies to construct new runways in Dhaka, Cox's Bazar, and Sylhet airports

While road construction technology is being updated gradually across the world, Bangladesh is far behind in adopting such technology. Moreover, the existing technologies are not being used properly in the country.

As a result, people are continuously suffering due to innumerable potholes and waterlogged road networks throughout the entire year. 

A very common phenomenon in Dhaka is that roads are excavated, just after repair, for shifting or fixing underground utility services like gas, water supply or telephone line. Such a gap of coordination among the government agencies has made the city untenable.

Apart from this, more than 25% roads in the capital become dilapidated due to various reasons including heavy rain - which are not only increasing public spending but also people's sufferings.   

According to the experts, using plastic instead of asphalt can be a new way to get a sustainable road network. It would also be environment-friendly as plastic waste is used to build the roads.

It can prevent waterlogging as well, as the technology is durable in heavy rain and heat, they said.

"Plastic road concept will be so far convenient for Dhaka if the technology can be used through efficient management," said Prof Shamsul Hoque, an infrastructure expert.

"Most countries in the world use recycling technologies to save money and clean the environment," he added.   

How to install a plastic road?

According to the VolkerWessels, a Dutch construction company, the plastic road concept consists of a prefabricated, modular, and hollow road structure based on recycled plastics.

The prefabricated production, the lightweight and the modular design of plastic road make construction faster, simpler, and more efficient compared to traditional or bituminous road structures.

Besides, the prefabricated sheets can be installed on site directly like an installation of a bridge's span. Each sheet is recyclable and replaceable where necessary, according to the VolkerWessels.

As the sheets are lightweight and hollow, avoiding flooding and allowing plumbing and cable installations are also possible in such technology. The concept is being tested in the Netherlands.

Thinking about plastic roads in Dhaka

Experts believe that constructing plastic roads in Bangladesh is a solution to the country's long-standing problem of shabby roads and streets. 

Roads constructed with bitumen usually develop cracks and potholes within a short time in subtropical climates such as that of Bangladesh – the roads are vulnerable to heat and humidity during summer and monsoon.

According to the VolkerWessels, the traditional bitumen roads are unsustainable, brittle and they contribute over 1.6 million tons of carbon dioxide around the world each year. 

But plastic road is a completely circular product that is based on recycled plastics. It has a significantly smaller carbon footprint than traditional road structures. Plastic pave takes less time to lay than asphalt and lasts three times as long, it said.

Being inspired by the plastic road concept, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) has been using such technologies to construct new runways in Dhaka, Cox's Bazar, and Sylhet airports as it is more convenient than those of bituminous.   

Dhaka city authorities are also being inspired about plastic roads to build a sustainable road network.

"We are always searching for convenient modern technologies instead of traditional ones as city dwellers love to see something new. So why cannot we apply the plastic road concept if it seems better?" said Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC) Mayor Atiqul Islam.

Brig Gen Muhammad Amirul Islam, chief engineer of DNCC, said: "The technology of plastic road can be a way of getting better roads. As our city is getting extended, we have the opportunity to install such roads there as well. 

"Apart from the road network, if we can build plastic pavements for walking, it will help to easily repair underground utility services without digging a road," he added. 

Munshi Abul Hashem, superintendent engineer (civil) of the Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC), said:  "Such sort of roads can bring relief if we can implement it properly.

"I think we should test its feasibility in Dhaka," he opined. 

Prof Shamsul Hoque said the plastic road is suitable for Bangladesh but it needs continuous monitoring and maintenance.

"City corporations are not reliable organizations for the purpose," he said, adding that a competent organization is a must to serve the purpose.