Roads like ‘bedridden people’
He says road conditions have taken a toll on his car and even though his goal is to earn as much money as possible each day by shuffling people around the city, he sometimes refuses to drop people off on certain routes if he knows the streets are particularly in bad shape.
“Potholes have spread everywhere. Works from the [city] to repair these streets is nothing but a waste of public funds,” said the taxi driver.
Four months ago, the Capital Secretariat, Sana’a’s governing body, began contracting construction companies to repair neglected roads in Sana’a. As part of an approximately YR1 billion budget, about $4.7 million, set aside by the city to deal with its crumbling streets.
As a result, considerable repairs were made on Baghdad, Al-Qadesia and Al-Dairi streets. Large sections of the high-traffic streets were ripped up and potholes paved over.
For a brief period of time, drivers felt like progress was being made, they were enjoying a smoother ride.
Then the rains came, destroying much of the construction work that had been done and highlighting other issues the city has in maintaining its roads.
“The repaired streets are worse now and more potholes have appeared,” Al-Qadsi said.
“These streets are in a very bad condition like bedridden people,” said Mohammed Ahmed, a taxi driver from the Al-Safia area of Sana’a.
July and August brought heavy rains, leaving much of the country flooded including Sana’a’s road network, which lacks an effective drainage system to discharge rainwater.
Rainwater has been known to accumulate so that high that it reaches the tops of cars on roads, with devastating consequences for infrastructure.
Abdulraqeeb Ata, the director of the Public Works Office in Sana’a, explains that stagnant rainwater leaks into asphalt and causes cracks. Basically, undoing all the work that had been completed in July.
But, the city doesn’t necessarily take responsibility to pay for the re-repair of the now cracked streets.
“The contractor is responsible for maintaining and repairing streets this year while the Public Works Office monitors the quality of work,” said Ata.
Although it’s unclear if the city actually refuses to pay contractors if they do not do the repairs, Ata says they will be responsible to resume work this month after Yemen’s heavy rains have subsided.
Technically contractors for street projects in the city are hired on year-long contracts.
There have also been questions raised about the quality of the materials used by contractors and whether that contributes to the sustainability of the roadwork done.
But, the Public Works Office also says they monitor that and do not pay contractors at the end of their one-year contracts if their work does not meet standards.
The director of renovation at the Public Works Office says he knows some contractors use asphalt that is known to crumble after rains, but it isn’t easy to get them to stop because of the low cost of the material.
Another issue that Ata acknowledges that is leading to the disrepair of streets is a lack of coordination on the part of the Public Works Office and other concerned bodies like the Local Council, who is also responsible for city infrastructure projects including sanitation, electricity, telephone and services.
“[Sometimes] after streets are paved with asphalt, another [government] body digs it up again to install water, electricity, telephone or sanitation services, which destroy the street,” Ata said and they usually do not make any repairs to the work they damaged.
He says the problem is that projects like putting in telephone wires should be completed before streets are paved, but it’s hard to coordinate budgets between authorities. Projects happen only when there is a budget for it.
“We pave streets even if the basic services aren’t available yet because people need paved streets,” Ata said, but the local council may not put in something they are working on until much later.
While Ata doesn’t think the budgeting issues will change anytime soon, he says his office is trying to initiate more communication between government entities.
“We are currently trying to solve the lack of coordination.”