Nature, authorities’ neglect keep villagers off road | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 15, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:54 AM, July 15, 2020

Netrakona, Patuakhali districts

Nature, authorities’ neglect keep villagers off road

Conducting everyday affairs have become extremely difficult for inhabitants of the country's rural parts where incessant monsoon rain and years of neglect by the authorities concerned have left rural roads devastated and impassable to some extent in many areas.     

In Netrakona's Kalmakanda upazila, thousands of residents in at least four unions are suffering immensely for over three years due to deplorable state of a vital road in the upazila.

Inhabitants of Rongchhati, Lengura, Koilati, Nazirpur and several other nearby unions use this two and half kilometre-long road, connecting Sidhli Bazar and Horipur Palpara, to reach various destinations including Mymensingh city, Netrakona town, and Durgapur upazila.  

Abul Hossain, a farmer from Sidhli village, said the farmers in the area have been selling their produce at low prices as they cannot transport the goods to markets due to the road's poor condition.  

This road is a nightmare when one needs to take a patient to a hospital emergency, said Ashraf Hossain, a student at Kalmakanda College.

Local journalist Sheikh Shamim said since many popular tourist destinations are located in the bordering upazilas of Kalmakanda and Durgapur under Netrakona, roads in these areas need to be maintained properly during the dry season.

Around three thousand people use the road every day. Although the upazila administration officials as well as the engineers at Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) were informed of the appalling condition of the road on numerous occasions, nothing was done to this effect yet, said Nazirpur Union Parishad Chairman Abdul Quddus Babul.

Contacted, Afsar Uddin, engineer of LGED in Kalmakanda, said repair of the road is ongoing and they already asked the contractor concerned to finish the work as soon as possible.

Imran Hossain, sub-assistant engineer of LGED in Kalmakanda, said the work was supposed to end by February this year, but the contractor failed to comply with the schedule.

The work slowed down further amid labourer shortage due the spread of coronavirus pandemic. However, the work has resumed and the expected deadline to finish the work is within the next two months, he also said.

PATUAKHALI RURAL ROADS

Thanks to the absence of maintenance by the authorities and the devastating blow of the tropical cyclone Amphan, almost all rural roads in Patuakhali are now almost impossible to travel along.  

Locals are facing great sufferings without being able to conduct their day-to-day affairs at nearby unions as well as at upazila and district headquarters.

According LGED, cyclone Amphan damaged 116 kilometres of rural roads (both paved and unpaved) and 80 bridges in Patuakhali.

Many of these roads have been repaired by local volunteers, while most others remain unattended by the authorities.

A 15.50-km rural road, from Patuakhali Sadar upazila to Titkata in Bara Bighai union under Sadar upazila, has been in a terrible state for the last few years. To worsen the situation, cyclone Amphan damaged the road in a number of spots, resulting in numerous potholes in Kuralia, Kazir Hat, Haratkibaria, Bashantala and Khatashia areas of the road.

Over fifty thousand people from Kalikapur, Madarbunia, Chhota Bighai and Bara Bighai unions have no other option but to risk their lives while travelling on this road to communicate with the upazila and district towns.

Mosharraf Fakir, from Haratkibaria village in Chhota Bighai union, said they have been enduring tremendous sufferings for several years, especially during the rainy season, as the important road in the area went unrepaired. 

Another villager, Zakir Hossain, said in times of medical emergency, this is the only road available for the villagers to get to a hospital in the upazila or the district town.  

During a recent visit to the area, local volunteers were seen repairing a section of the road.

Alam Khan, one of the volunteers, said they started repairing the damaged part of the road to protect adjacent agricultural land where Aman paddy seeds would be sown in a few days.

Shahid Gazi, owner of a brick kiln in Chhota Bighai area, said he incurred more than Tk 15 lakh in losses after failing to transport bricks to clients due to the road's bad condition.

Jugal Krishna Mandal, senior assistant engineer of LGED in Patuakhali, said cyclone Amphan caused an estimated Tk 20.51 crore worth of damage to the road network including bridges in the district.

The assessment of the damage has been sent to the higher authorities and repair work would start after funding for the work is allocated, he added.

Our correspondents in Mymensingh and Patuakhali contributed to the story.

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