Thursday, June 13, 2024

Highway repair to take months

RHD officials say they can now only fill potholes to make roads suitable for transport before Eid
Although Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Tuesday gave a firm directive to repair all dilapidated highways before Eid-ul-Fitr, Roads and Highway Department (RHD) officials said practically it is not possible.
They said the huge task cannot be completed in such a short period even if highest effort is made. Proper repair of the highways will take at least several months, they added.
“We will try to fill the potholes and repair the badly damaged portions of the highways before the Eid to make the highways suitable for transport. But it will be very difficult to do so if rain continues,” said an official requesting anonymity.
He said the repair work will be carried out following the limited tender method under which a contractor can be awarded a job of up to Tk 5 lakh within a couple of days, without any tender. If there is a fund shortage, contractors can be requested to carry out the repairs and submit bills later, he added.
“If we follow the emergency tender procedure, it will take us 20 days to complete a job of a small tender of 20 lakh taka, while a job of a large tender involving several crores will take about a month,” he told The Daily Star.
Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain, however, said he already mobilised all his resources to carry out emergency road repair work across the country, so that there is no problem for vehicular movement.
Chief Engineer of RHD Shahab Uddin also told the prime minister at a meeting on Tuesday that they will require at least six months to properly repair all roads and highways.
At the meeting held in the Prime Minister’s Office, Hasina directed the communications ministry to repair all highways before the Eid so that home-bound people do not face any trouble.
According to RHD records, out of the total 21,000 kilometres of major highways, about 4,400 kilometres are in bad condition requiring emergency repair.
The communications ministry and its RHD claimed they could not repair the roads due to a fund shortage, but the finance ministry and many ruling Awami League leaders and lawmakers blamed the communications ministry for being negligent.
Meanwhile, the communications ministry yesterday cancelled all kinds of leave and holidays of engineers and field-level officers of RHD until further notice, for carrying out emergency repair of the dilapidated highways before the Eid.
Similar orders were also issued for Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC), and Bangladesh Road Transport Authority (BRTA) officials and employees.
The ministry ordered executive engineers, officers, and field workers of RHD, BRTC and BRTA to stay at the sites where emergency repair work will be carried out.
The ministry issued the order in the wake of growing public outcry against the sorry state of the country’s highways, especially Dhaka-Mymensingh and Dhaka-Tangail highways.
The communications ministry yesterday suspended one executive engineer, and transferred some senior engineers of RHD for their negligence in duties, but spared a self-confessed corrupt official of RHD who is mainly responsible for the sorry state of the country’s major highways.
Executive Engineer of Gazipur Fazle Rabbi was suspended and attached to RHD while Superintendent Engineer of Dhaka Circle Arifur Rahman was transferred to Comilla.
Executive Engineer of Road Design and Standard Division of RHD Sheikh Shafiqul Alam will replace Rabbi, and the superintendent engineer of Comilla will replace Arifur.
The ministry also attached Additional Chief Engineer of Rangpur Circle Mafizul Islam to RHD. He will be replaced by Additional Engineer of RHD Shariful Islam.
“Road conditions turned bad as they did not work actively,” said the communications minister about the officers who were suspended and transferred.
But he failed to take any action against RHD Chief Engineer Shahab Uddin, widely blamed for widespread corruption and irregularities in various development projects of the department, and for misuse of road maintenance fund.
Shahab Uddin voluntarily went to the now-defunct Truth and Accountability Commission, confessed to his misdeeds, deposited a small portion of his ill-gotten money, and got clemency.
Instead of being punished, he was promoted to the post of chief engineer.
Shahab Uddin repeatedly said he does not talk to journalists. He also said he does not bother about media reports about him.

-With The Daily Star input

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