Bangladesh Halts Construction of Elevated Bus Line Following Deadly Collapse

Bangladesh Halts Construction of Elevated Bus Line Following Deadly Collapse.lelemuku.com.jpg

DHAKA, LELEMUKU.COM - Bangladesh’s government announced Friday that it had ordered a halt to the construction of an elevated bus line until the Chinese contractor could ensure safety on the project plagued by recent deadly incidents, including a section collapse that killed five people this month.

On Aug. 15, a girder being installed for the rapid bus transit line project fell and flattened a car that was driving underneath the elevated line along Jashim Uddin Avenue in Uttara, a suburb of Dhaka, killing five members of a family.

A newlywed couple also suffered serious injuries in the mishap that took place along the Dhaka-Mymensingh national highway, one of the country’s busiest roads.

“The contractor had some lapses that led to the girder collapse. This is unacceptable. Unless they ensure complete safety and security of the people, the construction will remain suspended,” Shafiqul Islam, the managing director of the Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit Co. Ltd, told BenarNews.

Islam and other officials went to the accident site on Friday to assess progress. The government has formed a three-member team to investigate the collapse.

Neelima Akhter, an additional secretary in the Road Transport and Bridges Ministry who leads the team, said she expected to complete the probe by next week.

“The construction is currently halted after the tragedy. Unless the contractor ensures full safety and security of the people, we will not allow them to carry on the construction work,” she told BenarNews.

“If proven guilty in our probe, we will suggest actions against the contractor and other concerned people,” she said without elaborating.

China’s Gezhouba Group was awarded the contract in 2016 to construct the 20.2-km (12.5-mile) rapid transit line, which will connect the Gazipur area of Dhaka with Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. The cost of the project is 42.6 billion taka (U.S. $450 million).

A relative of the victims filed a case with the police against the Chinese company.

Authorities have arrested at least 10 people involved in the project, Md. Mohsin, officer-in-charge of Uttara West Police Station, told BenarNews on Friday.

Mohammed Belayet Hossain, a former secretary of the ministry’s road transport and highways division, blamed the collapse on the Chinese contractor.

“The China Gezhouba Group Co. Limited is not a good company. They do not invest enough money to implement such a big project like the BRT,” Belayet Hossain alleged, using an acronym for the bus rapid transit system.

“As secretary, I personally visited sites and investigated the works of the China Gezhouba. Their safety measures were almost absent,” he told BenarNews. “The company does not want to spend [money] on ensuring public safety and security around the project premises.”

He said the construction site was also not blocked off properly.

“They worked keeping the vehicular traffic as usual – this is unacceptable,” he said, adding, “They could have placed the girders at midnight when traffic slows down remarkably.”

Belayet Hossain also alleged that the Chinese company had received the contract because of its low bid, adding it did not provide proper safety gear including boots, helmets and vests, for its workers.

“According to Bangladesh procurement rules, the company offering the lowest price must be given the contract,” Belayet Hossain said. “But I think we need a change in the rules – we should assess the capacity of a company before awarding a mega project.”

Past mishaps

The Chinese embassy in Dhaka did not immediately respond to a BenarNews email request for comments on the stoppage and the allegations against the Gezhouba Group.

The crane being used did not have the capacity to handle the weight of the girder and its operators, who were among those arrested, were not licensed to operate it, Khandaker Al Moin, a spokesman for the police’s Rapid Action Battalion, told a news conference on Aug. 18.

Moin said a Gezhouba Group official had ordered employees to work during a public holiday despite a manpower shortage including workers responsible for safety and traffic management. Some of those working were new and inexperienced.

This month’s deadly incident was not the first at the project site.

In July, a crane collapsed on a Bangladeshi worker and killed him along a stretch of the bus transit line at the Gazipur end. And in March 2021, six workers, including three Chinese citizens, were injured in an accident involving the setting of a girder broke along another stretch of the route. (Kamran Reza Chowdhury | BenarNews)

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