— 364 percent cost increase
— 77 damaged prematurely
Mahfuja Mukul: The construction of 251 bridges has been going on for more than 12 years. However, the project is not over yet. Not checking the feasibility at the beginning of the project,it is continuing. Out of these, 22 bridges have some visible defects and two bridges are not connected to important core roads. Roads with some bridges are seen to bend 90 degrees.
In March 2010, the project was approved for Tk 628.16crore in ECNEC meeting. The project was scheduled to be completed in December 2013. Later the project was revised thrice in view of reality. The expenditure increased to Tk 2,288.30crore. The term extends to June 2023. That is, 13 years and 5 months are fixed. The total time increase over the original project is 9 years 6 months. The cost is increased by 364.18 percent and the time is increased by 142.55 percent compared to the original stage.
Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation (IMED), the only project monitoring institution of the government, has prepared a report titled ‘Construction of Long Bridges on Upazila and Union Roads (Third Revised)’ after a close inspection of the ongoing project. In this regard, IMED Director (Deputy Secretary) Salehin Tanveer Ghazi told, “We have sent the report in the form of a book to the concerned people after careful inspection. Later they will give us a feedback report. We are following up on it. However, it will take a month for the organization implementing the project.
Regarding time and cost increase, he said, we always recommend that the project should be implemented on time, the cost should not increase. In the light of verification of reasons for increase in time and cost, the cost and time are extended conditionally. We report project errors. The concerned ministry took the main action.
According to the report, the approach road of the 45-meter bridge has been opened on Viswanath Bejidanga Road in Kashiani, Gopalganj. The approach road of the 36-meter bridge on the Baraikhali-al-Amin Bazar road in Munshiganj, Srinagar has collapsed. Dighirpar FRB Bianya Railing of Tongibari has been broken. The approach road of the 36-meter RCC bridge on Madankhali Al-Amin Bazar road in Munshiganj Srinagar has also collapsed.
The soil on the approach road of the bridge located at Sutipara, Joy Bangla Road in Madan Upazila of Netrokona district was not properly compacted, due to which the CC block of the approach road collapsed. Some bridges built in Charfashan of Bhola district, Mirupar and MunshiganjTongibariupazila of Kushtia district need to be repaired urgently. The approach road and railings were broken.
The project is being implemented by the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED). When asked over the phone about various errors and time-expenditure of the project, project director Kazi Golam Mostafa said, “I don’t want to say anything about it.” I will do as IMED says. With this he cut the phone line.
According to the report, 42 audit objections have been raised regarding the expenditure in various sectors in the project. Its amount is Tk 490 crore. Meanwhile, the railings of any of the 77 bridges that have been constructed so far have broken, the approach roads have also collapsed. Another lamp post has been damaged.
Planning Commission’s Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED) has raised questions about these. Meanwhile, a long bridge is usually 100 meters or more in length. But in this project, it can be seen that about 80 bridges between 18, 20, 25 and 30 to 50 meters have been built.
According to the report, 22 of the 77 bridges inspected in the project were found to have many visible defects. Of these, five bridge railings were broken, approach roads of six were broken and approach roads of four were caved in. The approach road was never constructed due to land issues. Two bridges are low in height and one has a broken postgut; A lamp post on a bridge was reported damaged.
Among these, the approach road of the 45-meter bridge has been laid on the Vishwanath Bejidanga Road in Kashiani, Gopalganj. The approach road of the 36-meter bridge on the Baraikhali Al-Amin Bazar Road in Srinagar, Munshiganj has collapsed. Dighirpar FRB Bianya Railing of Tongibari has been broken. The foundation of the bridge called Sultan, built at a cost of Tk 40 crore on the Maya river in Charfashanupazila of Bhola, has also been washed away. The remaining 19 bridges also have various defects.
The project is undertaken considering various importance. Bangladesh is a riverine country. Most of its areas are basically flood-prone low-lying areas, where innumerable rivers, canals and canals are spread like nets. As a result, establishing road connectivity between different parts of the country is a difficult task. On the other hand, lack of proper road communication is hindering the overall development of rural areas in business, education and health.
To maintain the development momentum of the present government, construction of roads, bridges and culverts is very important for the development of people in backward rural areas. In continuation of this, the project titled ‘Long Bridge Construction (LBC) on Upazila and Union Roads’ is being implemented under the Directorate of Local Government Engineering.
IMED inspection shows that the Jaydharkhali-Rajghat, PSC girder bridge constructed in Gafargaonupazila of Mymensingh district is very important. As this bridge has created a connection between Gafargaon and Bhaluka, local people do not have to go to Bhaluka via GafargaonSadar, they can easily reach Bhaluka directly by crossing this bridge. Due to this bridge at the union level, the commuting distance between Gafargaon and Bhaluka has been reduced for the people of the respective areas, the commuting to school-college, haat-bazar has become easier.
During the surface inspection of the bridge, it can be seen that the expansion joint of the bridge, the approach road is good as per the design of the bridge, accurate information is obtained by actual measurements. Besides, another bridge is under construction within two and a half kilometers. Actual progress of this bridge is 25 percent piling has been completed. A span girder casting has been completed on one side while the pier column on the other side is yet to be completed.
But since both the bridges have been constructed in remote rural areas on the same river, there is no justification for constructing two bridges side by side within two and a half kilometers. It seems unreasonable to construct two bridges just 2.5 km apart where bridges are required in the busiest areas in many parts of Bangladesh. Where a medium-long span bridge is being constructed, no heavy traffic or even rickshaw-like roads are visible on one side. There is no road but the bridge is being built.
Besides, on-site inspection found 22 out of 77 bridges had some visible defects and two bridges were not connected to any important road or connected at 90-degree bend. In the southern region, waterways are still considered as one of the most important means of communication due to not determining the correct height of bridges on the river, causing obstruction to navigation at two places, some bridges not having proper approach roads and collapsing.
The project progress review shows that the cumulative financial progress of the project till April 22 is 2 thousand 133 crores 76 lakhs 39 thousand taka, which is 93.27 percent of the project allocation and the physical progress is 96.11 percent. Despite the passage of time, the financial progress of the project is lagging behind.
Officials related to the project said that due to covid-19, delay in construction activities, some delay in land acquisition, adequate allocation was not received in time from 2017-2018 to 2020-2021 fiscal year. The progress of the project has been hampered by cancellation of contracts by eight contracting firms, re-tendering and repeated revisions to the project and inclusion of new schemes.
The project has a total of 311 packages including 14 product packages, 251 bridges under civil works, 295 under civil construction and two service packages. Among them, 14 packages of products, 216 packages of work and two packages of services have been invited and contracts have been signed. As per contract, 14 products, out of 216 packages of civil work, 181 packages have already been completed and construction of 35 packages is in progress.
Bangladesh is a riverine country. Most of its areas are basically flood-prone low-lying areas, where innumerable rivers, canals and canals are spread like nets. As a result, establishing road connectivity between different parts of the country is a difficult task. On the other hand, lack of proper road connectivity is hindering the overall development in the business, education and health sectors of the rural areas. For the sake of the development of the people of the backward rural areas, the construction of roads, bridges and culverts is very important to maintain the development momentum of the present government.
According to the IMED report, guide walls of 7 to 10 meters on both sides after the wing walls of many bridges in remote village areas of long bridge construction projects on upazila and union roads have not been done, which should be done, so that the slope of the approach road does not collapse easily. The soil on the approach road is not properly compacted, due to which the CC block on the approach road is collapsing.
Whether the bridge is being constructed in a city or a remote area, the soil on the approach road should be properly compacted and guide walls of 7 to 10 meters should be provided, IMED said.
The IMED report has revealed that the approach road will collapse after a few days. As seen in some bridges, there is no approach road and the height of the bridge and traffic flow are not up to the connecting road. If there is no proper approach road after the construction of the bridge then the construction of some such bridge will become pointless. Bridge access roads are generally straight or may be square for easy vehicular movement.
But in the case of some bridges, the connecting road of the bridge is bent at 90-degree angle, thus disrupting the movement of vehicles and increasing the incidence of accidents. The relevant ministries and departments have been asked to take a serious look at these issues in the construction of bridges in the future.
Onsite inspection, it can be seen that a bridge has been constructed at Lalmohan in Bhola. Proper project feasibility study and negativity clearance were not done properly. As a result, the local civil society people, public representatives and business representatives faced obstacles during the construction of the bridge. The concerned requested to stop the construction work until the height of the bridge is increased.
With 34 meters of work remaining, there was a long stoppage and the contract was canceled as the contract of the contractor who was engaged in the construction work expired. There are many such bridges in riverine areas. The organization said that at least water level analysis should be done for the construction of these small bridges.
According to AMED, the casting of railing or railing post was not smooth, the main reason being that the suttering was not done properly and the steel sutter was not used. In the future, more attention should be paid to these issues in the construction of bridges. Railing posts and beam rods are not provided as per design. Also, the proportion of sand and cement in casting was not correct, so the casting of railings and railing posts was getting messy. Clean cover is not provided properly in case of railings.
Review of other opinions regarding bridge construction of the project. The name of the project is ‘Upazila and Union level bridge construction’ project. A long bridge usually requires a bridge length of 100 meters or more.
The project is seen to include numerous bridges between 18, 20, 25 and 30-50 meters, which seems to contradict the name of the project. Many large bridges are not provided with lampposts. Many bridges in remote areas are not provided with postguards. As a result, instead of benefits, these bridges have become a thorn in the neck of the locals.
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