The accident on 3rd August, 2016, that saw 14 dead and 18 missing, when 2 buses and a number of cars plunged into the overflowing Savitri river due to a bridge collapse in Mahad in Western Maharashtra, is a stark reminder of the fact that the roads and bridges in India are indeed in a deplorable state with an urgent need for a complete makeover. Incidences of deaths in accidents due to bridge collapses and the pathetic condition of roads are becoming alarmingly frequent.
Accidents Due to the Poor Condition of Roads and Bridges
- One of the worst train accidents occurred in 2001, in which 57 lives were lost and nearly 300 injured due to the derailment of a train crossing the Kadalundi River in Kerala.
- In 2005, a flash flood swept away a small bridge at Valigonda and a train unaware of the missing portion went down killing 114 people and injuring 200.
- 30 lives were lost when a 150-year old bridge collapsed on the Howrah Jamalpur superfast train in 2006.
- In 2009 an under construction bridge collapsed leading to the death of 28 labourers in Rajasthan.
- More recently, in March, 2016, the under construction bridge , the Vivekananda Flyover in Kolkata collapsed, claiming 27 lives.
- As per a survey conducted, there is one death every 4 minutes due to road accidents. While drunken driving is also a leading cause, the poor condition of the roads is also very much a culprit.
- 1214 road crashes occur every day in India, and in 2013 – 1,37,0000 lost their lives in road accidents.
The Connectivity Issues- Roads & Bridges
India is today considered as a developing nation only after China, and the nation has made progress by leaps and bounds in the sectors like technology, education, industrialization etc. It goes without saying that the progress of any nation in terms of economic growth is directly related to its road network including the bridges connecting the shores across the many rivers across the nation, and India does follow the United States of America in close heels with the second largest road network in the world. However, the following are the problems faced by the road netwoks in India:
- The roads in India span over 2 million kilometres, including 53 National highways which carry about 40 percent of the total road traffic.
- However, the condition of the majority of the roads is pathetic.
- Out of the 2 million kilometre, only 9,60,000 Km is surfaced while the remaining are poorly constructed ones, and 25% of the villages have poor road links.
- Vast sums of money have been invested to address the issue for the past 30 years, since the 1980s, but the condition is far from being solved.
- It had been planned to increase the width of the roads and construct important bridges, and the work progressed with the roads built to connect major highways.
- However, the large population and the heavy traffic on the roads are acting as a deterrent from the work seeing a successful completion.
- The condition of most of the bridges are again a different matter altogether. Most of these bridges are very old and in urgent requirement for a refurbishment.
- New bridges need to be built to share the load of the heavy traffic.
- The roads built need to be improved in quality, and geometrics.
Corruption is one of the root causes of the poor quality of roads and bridges in India. The quality of the materials used is so sub-standard, that the roads need to be rebuilt after every monsoon in most of the areas. One shudders when one thinks of the foundation of the bridges which is not visible to the naked eye. Apart from the sub-standard quality of construction material, the time taken to construct the network of bridges and roads is also way beyond required. It is of urgent requirement for the government to take notice of the urgency of the situation and take steps towards rectifying the same. At present the administration of the national highways, state highways, and minor roads in the country are vested with different authorities. If the administration is vested with one central authority then not only will it help in expediting the construction of roads and bridges and refurbishment of the old ones, but the quality will also improve as there would be no blame game with one administration accountable and responsible for the output.