The monsoon is flooding not just the roads across the country, but also the social media pages.
With commuters sharing photographs and videos of roadblocks and overflowing streams from various parts of the country, we get a sense of the chaos torrential rains have brought this season. In a way, it shows that we are more connected virtually than otherwise.
It is good that we see authorities such as the department of roads, road safety and transport authority, and the royal Bhutan police, regularly updating information on which roads are blocked and when. The National Centre for Hydrology & Meteorology is also closely monitoring water levels in the rivers and issuing flood advisory. These developments are commendable and such coordination among agencies long awaited. We see the concerns of authorities. We see that they do value the safety of commuters, those who ply the roads everyday as our politicians hop onto the chopper to fly to places that are otherwise difficult and risky to reach this season.
As the rains wash down the dirt, muck and debris, it reminds us of the quality of work on the roads, the state of our environment and the threat of flash floods. The lack of drainage along our roads cause water to overflow, flooding roads that continue to remain filled with potholes. The loosened earth along the road widening projects slide and block traffic every time it rains, causing inconvenience and risks to commuters and workers at the site.
Our journey of building roads, which began since the 60s continues to this day. We build and rebuild roads, widen and black top them as often as the budget allows. It does not occur to us to question the quality of work when a new road doesn’t last a monsoon season. Rarely do we ask why our irrigation cannels and drinking water supply are defunct when rains are loosening earth and boulders to block the flow of traffic. Our farmers await the monsoon rains to transplant paddy because no water runs through the irrigation cannels. As a country that harvests water to generate power and that uses its rural population who depend on agriculture to assert its claim of being an agrarian society, we should be ashamed of these ironies.
But we see that efforts are being made and the updates on roadblocks are both informative and important. Such work needs to be sustained when the monsoon season is long over.
For driving on our roads is not without risks. Records show that between 2005 and 2015, the country recorded 11,104 motor vehicle crashes that cost 832 lives and injured 5,282 people. Road and weather conditions are however not the main contributors to these mishaps. In 2015, for instance, there were 21 motor vehicle crashes due to road and weather conditions as opposed to 574 cases caused due to human error. It is time the authorities defined and broke down human errors so that correct and timely interventions could be made. It is time we consider including roadblocks and landslides as human error.
A start has been made. We must go further because the roads are our lifelines.