The Deadly Roads of Balochistan – TBP Editorial

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Just in the month of August 2020, 944 road accidents were recorded by a single non-governmental organisation. This averages at more than 30 mishaps per day. The aforementioned crashes resulted in 143 fatalities and 1470 others getting injuries, some life changing.

August was not an exceptionally deadlier month by any means. In July, 1099 road accidents were recorded by the same organisation that had resulted in 123 losing their lives while 1462 others getting injured. Similar numbers were reported in June, when due to 949 traffic accidents, 109 lost their lives and 1433 were injured.

In any society such alarming figures would have resulted in urgent preventive measures being introduced, but in Balochistan, the reality is otherwise as nothing has improved.

The dilapidated condition of roads that are decades old are the main reason of traffic accidents in Balochistan. The worst culprit is the 813km long N-25 highway, also known as the RCD highway. This road was built more than 30 years ago for small traffic. It now caters for thousands of heavy vehicles every day, which has increased manifolds in last couple of years due to the China Pakistan Economic Corridor related activities. It is currently the most dangerous road of Balochistan, but also the most frequented. However, to this date it remains as a single carriageway that is used by commercial lorries, transport coaches and the private users alike.

The analysis of traffic accidents between June 2020 – August 2020 suggests that majority of the mishaps involve commercial freight lorries. The overloading of freight vehicles, majority of which are not fit to be driven on roads, has always been a great danger and a major concern. Passenger buses are also used to transport goods, often along with passengers, hundreds of barrels of fuel are transported on roofs of buses. However, regulation of the industry by government authorities is almost non-existent.

Despite such dangerous roads with high number of accidents, emergency facilities are not available. Proper healthcare facilities for emergency medical aid are completely absent and victims have to be transported hundreds of kilometres away to major towns and many do not survive the long journeys. The current government of Balochistan announced in 2019 to establish medical centers on the narrow highways to provide first-aid. However, so far, no medical centres have been constructed and people continue to die in droves in accidents.

It is not just the provincial government that has proved itself incompetent. The federal government has also delayed release of funds that the provincial government has been demanding to expand the N-25 highway. In September Balochistan government advertised an RFP (Request for Proposal) but at the same time the government officials hinted at delays by the federal government.

In Balochistan the value of life has continuously diminished. Almost every social indicator suggests presence of a human catastrophe. The road accidents are only adding to miseries of the people. It is high time this issue is prioritised, and a long-term solution is sought on emergency basis. Balochistan majorly contributes in the economy of Pakistani state through its natural resources. It is now the time to channel back at least some of these resources to improve the road infrastructure.

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