Bangladesh allows construction on troubled elevated transit line to resume
Bangladesh’s government has allowed a Chinese contractor to resume construction of an elevated rapid bus route after suspending the project in the wake of a girder falling and killing five people in a car last month, officials said.
Authorities have also granted the Gezhouba Group Company, a road-building firm from mainland China, a one-year extension on the project after it gave the government assurances about implementing safety measures to prevent other accidents from happening, officials told BenarNews.
“China’s Gezhouba Group Company has been permitted to resume the construction work as they have adopted safety measures at the project site. We want them to finish the work as soon as possible,” A.B.M Amin Ullah Nuri, the secretary of the Road Transport and Highways Division, told BenarNews.
“The project is already behind schedule; how long will we make people suffer for the project?” said the official, who also chairs the state agency implementing the Dhaka Bus Rapid Transit line (DBRT).
The deadly accident on Aug. 15 was the latest mishap to occur during construction of the 20.2-km (12.5-mile) overhead rapid transit bus corridor. Five members of a family, including two children, were killed when the falling girder crushed their car as they were driving underneath the construction site of the elevated transit line. A newlywed couple, who were also in the car, were seriously injured.
A government investigation into the incident found that the China Gezhouba Group Co., a subsidiary of the China Gezhouba Group Corp. (CGGC), was responsible for the accident by not ensuring people’s safety in or near the project site.
The project, valued at 42.6 billion taka (U.S. $450 million), is being financed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Nuri said.
Once completed, the transit line will connect the neighboring Gazipur district with Dhaka’s Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, in a project that aims to ease traffic congestion on a busy highway connecting the two points.
“We have to work with the ADB to take action against the contracting company. We are working with them in this regard,” Nuri said without elaborating.
In 2016, the Gezhouba Group was awarded the contract for the project. Its original end-date was June 2020, but the project got delayed multiple times amid the COVID-19 pandemic, and the company was then given a new deadline for finishing the project by June 2021.
“Thus far, nearly 80 percent of the project has been finished. We want the physical construction of the project to finish by March next year. So, we have proposed the planning commission to extend the deadline for the company to December 2023,” Shafiqul Islam, the managing director of the DBRT company, told BenarNews.
When asked whether the government was considering cancelling the contract and finding a new builder for the transit line, he replied: “This is very difficult to change the contractor of an ongoing project. We will not change the contractor CGGC.”
“There are … provisions for punishment in the contract, but applying the provisions is realistic,” Islam added.
The Chinese embassy in Dhaka did not immediately respond to BenarNews requests for comment.
Ten people, all Bangladeshi nationals connected with the Chinese company, have been arrested in connection with the Aug. 15 accident but have been freed on bail.
Meanwhile, a plaintiff in a lawsuit brought against the company over the latest incident told BenarNews that senior officials of CGGC went to his home in Dhaka recently.
“They offered us Tk two million for each family as compensation so that we could withdraw the case. But we have not accepted their proposal,” said Md. Afran Mondal Babu, who is suing the company for culpable homicide not amounting to murder.
“The police had not arrested any official of the Chinese company. Some local staff of the project were arrested and all of them have been [released] on bail,” said Babu.
“We have asked for Tk 30 million (U.S. $287,240) for the settlement. And they rejected our offer,” he said.
BenarNews is an RFA-affiliated news service.