A Chinese contractor did nothing to ensure safety at the site of the Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit project on the busy road from Shahjalal International Airport to Gazipiur, while the government company and its consultant supervising the work had only warned the contractor about its responsibilities.
A letter, seen by bdnews24.com, has now revealed how negligence and carelessness engulfed the project before it was suspended due to the deaths of five people in an accident in Uttara.
They died after a crane tilted and dropped a concrete girder on a passing car on Monday. No measures were in place to control traffic during the risky job. The Rapid Action Battalion has arrested the crane operator, his assistant, a security guard, and six other people for their suspected involvement with the accident.
The government awarded civil works contracts to four companies, including China Gezhouba Group Corporation. Gezhouba, which was responsible for the construction of the section where the girder came down on the car, has now been dragged to court by the family of the victims.
AKM Manir Hossain Pathan, the director of the DBRTC and chief engineer of the Roads and Highways Department, told bdnews24.com on Tuesday that action has always been taken against any irregularities.
“The project’s financier, the ADB, is aware of the claims, as is the Planning Commission. Everyone knows. We held many meetings with them [Ghezouba] and discussed these matters. But changing the contractor and starting again will give rise to new problems. That is why we are thinking of finishing the project with them.”
Several attempts were made to reach BRT Project Director Md Mohirul Islam Khan on his mobile phone for his comments about these allegations, but he did not pick up.
Shafiqul Islam, managing director of Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit Company Limited, claimed they had inspected the site, but it was the consultant’s duty to look after the technical issues. “Supervision is a huge job. This is why consultants are appointed.”
He admitted the contractor was warned through a letter. However, the Dhaka BRT Company and its consultant did not take punitive action against Ghezouba for not paying heed to the warnings despite the fact that girder accidents involving the project caused casualties at least two times earlier.
Consultant SMEC International Proprietary Limited and Associates sent the letter to Ghezouba representative Lu Hui, saying it would suspend the work if public safety was not ensured in the BRT project.
SMEC said in the letter the safety measures around the holes dug to set up piers in Gazipur were not sufficient. It advised Ghezouba to set up metal barriers and visible marking so that people do not get close to the holes.
It also asked Ghezouba to mark the roads for diversion, put up lights for marking at night, set up barriers, and employ signalmen to prevent accidents.
Lu Hui could not be reached for comments. An official said he was in China. The Ghezouba project director, who also identified himself as Lu, said he was not authorised to talk to the media.
BRT Managing Director Shafiqul said SMEC should have taken steps against Ghezouba after sending the warning letters. “They [SMEC] had full authority to take action against the contractor. But all the consultant did was keep sending letters.”
Asked what the BRT Company did about the negligence by the contractor, he said, “The consultant was reminded in every meeting that it needed to act.”