WHAT IS LACKING IN OUR ROAD ENGINEERING?

I believe that most of the people in our country experience the bitter ordeal of driving and walking on our road system almost daily. The world is fast becoming a global village paving the way for most of the people to walk on roads of other countries. A Sri Lankan who has never left the shores or has visited the countries in the undeveloped segment of the world would think that our road network could be better or even the best. But, people who have had the good fortune to visit the advanced countries could definitely have a different opinion with regard to the same. I am one of them.

I am writing this article to ignite road enthusiasm of both the public and the relevant authorities. The Daily News in which I thought to publish my findings, I proudly say, has always played the role of the watchdog of the nation. I jotted down some notes for writing this letter standing on the sidewalk of a public highway in Brisbane, Queensland in Australia.

Quality standard

As an inquisitive freelance journalist I strolled along this stretch of the road to create an accurate picture of this road and to help our engineers to take a leaf from their counterparts to uplift the road system in our country. The ironical tragedy is that it seems to me our own engineers have mastered their road engineering skills from the reputed universities of engineering and technology of this country and other countries of the same calibre.

I do not hesitate to mention here that our poor country might have not provided them with the necessary funds to cope with the related financial restraints they confront with in meeting the quality standard to pace with their counterparts in the advanced countries. The plethora of malpractices in the road sector also cannot be ignored.

One of the prominent observances I made is that in the road network here one could notice that there is a proper flow of rainwater along the roads. Garden water is directly drained to the accurately slopped highways that carries it to wide and deep man made water ways. I observed that within minutes the rapidly gathering rainwater is emptied into a properly maintained drainage system. Another predominant factor is that in most of the homesteads rainwater harvesting is done with utmost precision. They take rainwater as a blessing and thus they save their hard earned money by using rainwater for their daily use.

The local authorities rightly reward the rainwater harvesters due to its national significance. People do it driven by patriotic feelings towards the country. Even four or more laned road systems have been constructed with the accurate slope evenly for both sides from the mid elevation. In my long stay here and in Sydney I have never seen stagnant waters on the roads. We could see many an impassable portion on our only expressway after a rain for a few hours. One such spot is between Baddegama and Kurundugahahethepma on Kottawa Matara Expressway. Once I had a miraculous escape one rainy day there. God saved me. I thanked almighty God, but not our erudite road engineers. Another pivotal aspect is that transportation engineering and civil engineering disciplines seem not properly combined in our country. Where signal lights have to function, police officers are stationed.

Traffic lights

Our traffic lights also malfunction most of the time of the day. I myself have experienced that the drivers have to obey both the policeman and the signal light. When we obey the traffic light, we are given a charge sheet. When we obey the policeman, the vehicle is smashed for no fault of the driver. The left hand doesn’t know what the right hand is doing. People have to pay the price for the perennial defects of the system. Erroneously proportioned sleeping policemen are another death trap on our roads. Some sleeping policemen stand where their service is not needed for the smooth flow of the traffic. Faded colouring and the poorly maintained pedestrian crossings also pose a death threat to the road users.

In the Maldives one cannot see a developed road system in the widely spread islands. Yet, what I admire there is that the maintenance of the interior roads is entrusted with the householders who face the roads. We too can take a leaf from them and the light engineering aspect of the local roads could be entrusted to their counterparts here by offering them a nominal maintenance cost. Thus, we can successfully instill patriotism in people for the good of the country. In my five year teaching career there I derived much pleasure treading on their well-kept roads.

In fact, as a proud nation we also have our own road construction knowhow under our belt. Yet, we could derive much needed inspiration from the advanced countries without throwing the baby with soap water.

 



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