The repair and maintenance work for a large number of smaller physical infrastructures spread across the country is facing serious hurdles. The reason is the government body that looks after the work, the Roads and Highways Division (RHD), lacks both sufficient fund and up-to-date information about the condition of those infrastructures to carry out the task. Surprisingly, though the department over the years has built numerous such structures, it appears clueless to their number or present status. As reported recently in this paper, the RHD has the necessary fund to repair and maintain its larger infrastructures, the highways. But no such arrangement is in place for more than 19,000 structures like small bridges, culverts and bailey bridges all over the country. Worse yet, the number of such structures as mentioned are also not exact. And, up until now, no survey has been conducted to have a correct picture about the number and condition of these vital physical infrastructures. The data on these structures provided by the department are also not updated. Actually, it is around one and a half decades old.
Evidently, the government body (RHD) is in no position to internally handle the tedious and time-consuming work of surveying the status of thousands of such structures dispersed throughout the country. Interestingly, with a view to getting updates on the status of repair and maintenance of those infrastructures, the department had its software installed to feed it with regular updates some three years back. But that system, too, is perhaps not being duly looked after as whatever information is available on the app is outdated. This is unacceptable. The authorities concerned should look into what came in the way of duly feeding updated data into the app and fix it without delay. One wonders how many of those bridges and culverts are in a state of disrepair and lacking maintenance and for how long! What is of concern here is that run-down bridges and culverts can become veritable death-traps on the roads.
Those in charge of road communications seem to be too busy with the big highways and bridges to give any attention to these smaller road infrastructures. Such an indifferent approach to these crucial communication infrastructures is unconscionable, for those are no less important as they play a vital role in connecting the major highways to the rest of the country. Under the circumstances, immediate steps should be taken to conduct a survey to know the exact number of these small physical infrastructures in the country and their present status. To that end, the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges should allocate adequate fund to RHD so that it can take immediate steps to remove the bottlenecks it is facing to do what is required to be done.
First, RHD should engage a competent organisation having the expertise to carry out a survey of the smaller bridges, culverts and bailey bridges in the country. Since its earlier attempt to do such a survey received little response from local agencies if only because they lacked the special knowhow required to perform the task, if need be, it may go for hiring any reputed external organisation in the field to conduct the survey. Meanwhile, a dedicated unit should be created under the RHD to gather the latest information about the state of the bridges and culverts from different corners of the country and feed it into the app.