How the World Bank Helped Create the World's Deadliest Road

It doesn't traverse a deep gorge or curve around a mountainside, so what makes the N2 in Bangladesh one of the world's deadliest highways? Annie Kelly explains.
December 19, 2012, 11am PST | Jonathan Nettler | @nettsj
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"[T]he N2 is a fat belt of grey tarmac connecting the Bangladeshi capital Dhaka to the booming city of Sylhet. Seven years ago more than £169m was spent turning this road into one of Bangladesh's newest and fastest transport routes. Most of the money came from the World Bank."

Doesn't exactly sound like the recipe for mass vehicular peril, does it? But, as Kelly describes, with an official death rate of 180 persons a year (and estimates putting the number more than four times higher), the road is an emblem of the poor state of road safety in the developing world. And some believe the World Bank is complicit in the danger.

"Basically this road is like driving a 10-tonne truck through a pedestrian mall," says Greg Smith, regional director for the International Road Assessment Programme (iRAP). "And nobody is doing enough to stop it."

"He points to the sides of the road: no crash barriers. In the middle of the road, there is no central reservation to prevent dangerous overtaking and stop the majority of the head-on collisions. No pedestrian footpaths, no footbridges, no traffic lights or speed controls."

"They built this road with absolutely no basic safety features," he says. "As an engineer I look at this road and all I see is a systematic failure. And this is a World Bank road. You would never ever build a road like this in a developed country. Why is it OK for it to be built with millions of pounds of international money here in Bangladesh? Because these people are poor and it doesn't matter?"

h/t Daniel Lippman

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Published on Saturday, December 8, 2012 in The Guardian
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