Almost 1 lakh people slated to benefit from building a small bridge costing the government in the range of Tk 3.5 crore, over the Louhajong River as it flows through Berdoma in Tangail, will have to wait longer, after the structure collapsed on Thursday.
There were no external factors at play: it had not opened to traffic yet (because it wasn't complete), and there was little water flowing in that part of the river. Yet the centre-shuttering of the bridge had given away overnight, and the structure had collapsed in on itself at the centre, 3.5 feet deep. It could only have been the result of faulty design or construction, or both.
Municipal engineers and contractors visited the site on Friday morning.
According to Tangail Municipality sources, construction companies Brix and Bridge Limited and the Nrimiti started working jointly on November 12, 2020. UNB was unable to find any reliable record of these companies on the internet.
More than Tk 3.5 crore was estimated as the construction cost of the 30-meter-long and 8-meter-wide bridge. That being said, it still fell below the threshold at which contracts for government projects must be awarded through public tender. Taking advantage of this, it is alleged that the contract was captured by the local MP, Sanwar Hossain of Tangail-5, and distributed to one of his followers.
He was essentially a local party activist, Amirul Islam, who seemed to have assumed the role of a go-between for the contracted firms and the local administration, which was the awarding body.
Many contracts of this size and scope are being handled like this by MPs or the local administrations, all over the country. While there are some stories of the method proving useful to getting new localised engineering and construction firms started out, or the break some new firm needed, often the end result for firms that are literally starting out and have never actually built bridges is what we see in Tangail with Brix and Bridge Limited and Nrimiti.
Solaiman Hasan, information and research secretary of the district Awami League, demanded the contractors stand trial for wasting government money. "Those who have never even seen bridges had come to build bridges! It was sad. Although there is not much water and current in the river, the bridge has collapsed in on itself," he remarked.
Apparently members of the public could tell the contractors were not doing their job properly during the construction while it was ongoing. They would even engage the contractors and try to point things out to them but they were always ready with the MP's name to have their way.
On the date it was supposed to be handed over, some 55% of the work was reported as complete.
Abul Kalam Azad, councilor of ward no.5, Tangail Municipality, said that the engineers and contractors of the municipality requested several times to complete the work but they did not give any importance.
"Now thousands of people will suffer due to the collapse of the bridge," he added.
Amirul Islam, representative of the contractors, said they were both working from Dhaka. He spoke for them but also was keen to demonstrate he was not actually part of the company, and so to detach himself by playing the role of a mere middle-man.
"None of the work is done under me," Amirul said.
Also read: Worker killed, 20 others hurt as bridge collapses in Rangamati
A probe body will be formed to investigate the matter, said Tangail Municipality Engineer Shibbir Ahmed Azmi. He said that all concerned including the project director have been given notice after inspecting the site. Going forward, an investigation committee will be formed to unravel what exactly happened here, he added.
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