The 16 kilometers Addu Link Road constructed in the year 2001, is the second largest paved causeway in the Maldives. It runs from the City Capital Hithadhoo, down to the airport island of Gan, sweeping along the lagoon through the inhabited islands of Maradhoo, Maradhoo Feydhoo and Feydhoo. A Section of Link Road stretching from Maradhoo-Hankede Causeway bridge, through 4 uninhabited islands to the gates of Hithadhoo, is considered as a Highway where the maximum speed limit of 60km/h is imposed. Nevertheless, to our utmost frustration and disappointment the Highway is pitch black without any streetlamps for almost 19 years as of today.
Addu City is the southernmost Atoll in the Maldives archipelago and the second largest urban area in-terms of population. According to Transport Authority of Maldives statistics 2018, the second highest number of registered vehicles population apart from Capital Male’ is in Addu City.
Islands of Addu City possess fascinating infrastructural and landscape sceneries with amazing white sandy beaches, blue lagoons, palms, bushes, floral gardens and grass fields all contributing the breath taking beauty of the city. Driving along the link road, surrounded by attractive sceneries, a sense of peacefulness and security should be felt. However, as we drive further along the highway, inscription of commemorative graffiti on fatal accidents occurred on the highway could be seen, taking us to a scenery to a nightmare of grief.
Local road safety culture is yet to catch up with the traffic speeding along the link road, which has become a notorious accident black spot claiming the lives of many Adduans.
Since its construction, a number of fatal accidents have occurred on the highway section of the Link Road, which the authorities have ascribed to higher speeds and reckless driving. However, the drivers argue that the serious accidents occur mostly by deteriorated of the road due to lack of maintenance; lack of raised markers, road reflectors, streetlamps and having too many horizontal tangents and curves. It is necessary to take immediate preventive measures, to bring an end to these life threatening accidents.
As we look into the history of the Link Road (causeway), it was originally constructed by British Royal Air Force (RAF) engineers during the World War II, in 1942 when British naval and airbase was built in Addu Atoll Gan. Fifty Six years later in 2001, Link Road Causeway was designed in a semi geometric roadway design, reconstructed and paved by the government of Former President Maumoon Abdul Gayoom.
’’ British naval and airbase in Addu was an utmost secret base. They did their best to avoid any detection of it by enemies. Likewise, they designed the link road with several curves with the aim of confusing the enemies in case they were attacked’’. When asked about the alignment of the highway of Link Road, a senior citizen of the Addu City explained.
During the first democratically elected president Mohamed Nasheed’s presidency, it was made mandatory to wear a helmet while driving in the highway section of the Link Road. The regulation for wearing helmets was made compulsory, to reduce fatal head injuries in case of dangerous accidents.
With the number of vehicles increasing fast, every year, several lives are lost on the Link Road, Road safety has become extremely important as road accidents are increasing tremendously. A combination of minimal driver training, poor road maintenance, and absence of rumble strips, sealed road shoulders and flexible barriers, bad driving, insufficient enforcement and weak laws has resulted in carnage on the Addu Link Road.
In addition, entrance of several government institutions, both private and government businesses, private offices and many houses are directly facing the Link Road therefore it increases the risk of unfortunate mishaps to the people moving in and out of these places as there are no sealed road shoulders raised in these areas.
According to United Nation the main cause of death among people aged between 15 to 29 is due to road crashes. The UN recognized the seriousness of this problem by adopting specific road safety targets in the sustainable development goals: to halve the number of global death and injuries from road accidents by 2020. Policies yet to be articulated for this.
Politicians often make various promises during the campaigns of elections. However, these make belief pledges are just like lines drawn in oceans. Due to the selfish needs of politicians and the influence of tycoons, policies are often formulated with these self-centered interests in mind, rather than the interests of poor citizens and their needs. People should not be deprived from the rights they deserve.
It is the responsibility of the government to ensure the well being of its citizens. Relevant authorities must conduct traffic safety awareness education programs which play an important role in shaping the attitudes and behaviors of people ensuring they become responsible drivers, cyclists, passengers and pedestrians. Furthermore, the importance of road maintenance must be kept in mind and this importance needs to be reorganized by decision makers. However in most instances this is not reorganized and as a result, poor road maintenance means many roads are not in good conditions. For instance, Addu Link Road is without street lamps, sealed road shoulders and reflectors for several years and inadequate maintenance, which at the end of the day becomes the main reason for fatal accidents to occur. Don’t you agree that Adduans deserve to have a safe Link Road?