Faulty roads’ construction in Pakistan contributes to accidents

Lahore: Flaws in the engineering of the city roads and highways around Pakistan are considered one of the major reasons behind high and continuously exacerbating cases of road traffic accidents; according to Chief Traffic Officer (CTO) Lahore, Malik Liaqat and other experts serving in National Highway & Motorway Police (NH&MP).

The fatality rate of accidents in Pakistan is one of the highest in the world i.e. 27,081 according to World Health Organization which is much more than the road fatalities in the United Kingdom(UK) i.e. 1793 in 2017 despite the fact that Pakistan is six times less motorized than the UK (WHO 2009). The national road safety strategy of the government states that the collateral damage in road crashes cost Pakistan 9 billion dollars per annum, thus accounting for three percent of the country’s Gross Domestic Product (GDP). “This economic, life and infrastructural loss can be lessened if road engineering is done intelligibly and honestly”, says CTO Lahore.

During the data analysis of engineering flaws of the city roads provided by City Traffic Police, Lahore Truth Tracker learned that there are at least 39 points in Lahore with defective road engineering (sharp curves/ cuts, U Turns, bottlenecks etc.) thus increasing the chances of accidents. On being asked the reasons behind faulty road engineering, CTO Lahore lamented the mismanagement and malpractices of different departments involved in the construction of roads. “The duty of road construction of different parts of Lahore is divided between five departments namely Traffic Engineering and Planning Agency (TEPA), City Development Authority (CDA), Lahore Development Authority (LDA), Cantonment and Metropolitan Corporation Lahore (MCL). The lack of coordination between these departments has resulted in multiple traffic engineering flaws on roads which cause multiple accidents every day, “he said. CTO further stated, “Any of these departments alter the course of roads anytime which creates hurdles for road users and results in traffic mess”. Ironically, no higher authority is present for overlooking these departments and verifying their work.

While talking to the Truth Tracker CTO also pointed out some of the major loopholes in road engineering i.e. “Signal free corridors in different parts of Lahore have been constructed without pedestrian crossings”. Moreover, due to the mismanagement of road construction departments the signal free corridors in Lahore have proved a failure due to the creation of bottlenecks at different points as the traffic of feeder and service roads enters the main road, he further asserted.

Inspector CTP Arif Awan, while talking to the Truth Tracker pointed out the absence of Research and Development (R&D) while designing road infrastructure under which the road construction departments can calculate the tentative increase in city and vehicle population in the coming years before the road construction. In this context, as per CTO Lahore’s estimate, 1300 kilometers of city roads are insufficient for the daily take in of 5.2 million vehicles which is also the reason behind spike in crashes. Similarly, the majority of accidents on Jhang highway occur due to lack of road capacity as the road is a busy route for the transit of heavy vehicles.

While taking to the Truth Tracker, a victim of RTA said that the construction of canal road underpasses is flawed as two of them have been constructed on the left side i.e. the Jail road and Jinnah underpass, while the rest are on the right side. Sameera, a 26 years old lecturer in a private college told that, “I was about to move towards Jail road from canal, when a motorbike hit my car from the back. The biker was changing lanes while moving towards the underpass as he forgot that the jail road underpass was situated to the left of the roadside unlike other underpasses. His right leg bore bruises and bled while I had to repair my car’s back bumper.”

CTO, while describing blunders in the construction of canal underpasses said that “Under passes of different heights have been erected which are causing several accidents from many years. The heavy vehicle drivers might pass from 18 feet high underpass of Mughalpura but multiple fatal accidents have been recorded when drivers driving HTV tried passing from 11-12 feet and 13 feet high underpasses of Jail road and Jinnah Hospital respectively, misjudging their height. Unfortunately, the deployment of wardens on the underpasses at night to stop heavy vehicles have cost their lives.

The country’s capital is also not free from faulty road engineering. While talking to Truth Tracker, Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Traffic Division, Islamabad Farukh Rasheed considered the signal free corridor of Islamabad Express as an engineering failure. Outlining the reasons behind this he said, “First, the presence of both intra city and interprovincial traffic increases the chances of accidents on the highway. Second, after RWAT T cross 10 wings are merged into one wing thus creating traffic mess and exacerbating the chances of accidents.” Not only this, the absence of overhead bridge for pedestrians and road furniture on country’s capital roads is one of the reasons behind the majority of accidents. “How can a driver follow the speed limit when no speed limit board is present on the roadside which also falls under the category of engineering failure”, he added.

On being asked about the collaboration of CDA with traffic police in the construction of roads, SSP said that, “CDA does not cooperate with the traffic police at all. Despite writing numerous of applications regarding loop holes in road engineering, CDA has neither collaborated nor responded to the traffic police Islamabad.”

The country’s industrial capital Karachi has been the worst victim of road engineering. As per study “Assessment of Human Exposure to Traffic Borne Problems in Karachi” 42 % of Karachi’s population is under high level threat from road accidents. One of the major reasons of these accidents, besides increased vehicle density and over speeding, is faulty road engineering including sharp U turns and curves. Similarly due to engineering flaws on Indus highway, over 2000 people have died in the last three years mainly due to multiple engineering blunders on 132 kilometers long highway section from Jamshoro to Sehwan Sharif. The highway is single lane despite being a busy traffic route for heavy vehicles. The road has sharp curves without super alleviation and has no fencing, thus resulting in such an alarming number of accidents. Also, the highway has no road shoulders.

The faulty engineering of the three metropolitan cities makes one to imagine the poor state of road infrastructure in small cities and the reasons behind such a high ratio of RTA every day. As per Rescue 1122 data, daily 800 emergency calls of accidents are recorded on average only in Punjab, whereas, 30000-35000 casualties in accidents on average occur in the country every year. The condition of highways engineering is also not up to the international standards. In this regard Truth Tracker, after contacting senior patrolling officer NH&MP, Mr. Waseem, learned that there were numerous defects in highway engineering. “Though motorway has been designed with fewer defects, which is the reason behind the low number of accidents on it, the mechanism of rainwater disposal on it is still lacking, which requires the attention of the higher ups”, Mr. Waseem told the Truth Tracker. He further said that last month, a speeding Daewoo bus capsized due to standstill rain water on motorway miraculously causing no fatality or injury. On the other hand, national highways have multiple engineering flaws due to which accident ratio is quite high. Waseem claimed that 50 % of the accidents on highways occur due to road engineering issues.

He indicated some of the highways with engineering flaws including four dangerous turns (Khatarnaak morr) from Mallah Wala chowk to Deen Mill near Pattoki. Besides, multiple sharp curves from Aligarh Chowk to Manga Mandi on highway passing from Lahore, if left unchecked can result in severe accidents. Waseem told Truth Tracker that another reason behind accidents on old highways is the presence of wrong U turns with no storage lanes. Also, heavy vehicle i.e. a 22-wheeler requires an area of at least 50 feet to take U turn which if not provided can result in a serious crash. In this context, Inspector CTP, Lahore told that “people adopt one way to cross the roads due to construction of U turns at wrong points. This also results in severe crashes.”

The faulty engineering of the roads results in numerous road crashes which can be minimized through honest and tough resolve of the road engineering departments and the Ministry of Communication. This will not only result in securing the lives of some 6000 individuals but also, in preventing worth 9 billion dollars economic loss caused due to road crashes.

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