Uttara girder crash and public safety

Published : 16 Aug 2022 08:12 PM

At least five peo­ple, in­cluding two kids, were killed when a girder of under-construction Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) project fell on a private car in the city’s Uttara area on Monday.

Carrying seven family members, the private car was going to Ashulia from Kawla of Dhaka Airport. Of them, the owner of the car Rubel, 60, his wife Fahima, 42, Fahima’s sister Jharna, 29 and Jharna’s son Zakara, 6, and daughter Jannat, 2 died on the spot while Hridoy, 26, and Riya Moni, 21, who got married on Friday received serious injuries. However, the newly married couple-- Hridoy and Riya Moni are currently out of danger.

All were returning to Khejurbagan at Ashulia after attending the post marriage ceremony at Hridoy's house at Kawla. But their joys turned into sorrow and grief in the blink of an eye. After three-hour of frantic efforts, fire fighters in association with Uttra police recovered the five bodies and rescued the injured persons from the car.

The groaning of the critically injured couple Hridoy and Riya Moni and the cry of their wailing relatives turned the air heavy and loathsome.  This tragic death also sent a shock wave across country and stunned us. People were seen expressing deep shock and sorrow at the death of five people of a family. 

On March 14 last year at least six workers, including three Chinese nationals, involved in construction of BRT project were injured after a viaduct fell on them while they were working near airport in the city. It is clear to all us that the repetition of such deadly accident has exposed the loopholes in safety measures.

A launching girder is a type of gantry crane used for lifting and installing girders of viaducts. This deadly accident raised questions about the capacity of the crane that was carrying the girder which fell on the private car.

The authorities did not take minimum safety measures as the construction site was not cordoned off to bar vehicle movement on Dhaka-Mymensingh road, one of the busiest highways of the country.

This is unprecedented and gross negligence of the authorities concerned. As the government is working to free the capital Dhaka and its adjacent districts from serious traffic jam, it has also the responsibilities to see the safety and security issues of the people.

About 78.94 per cent construction work of the first part (Airport-Banani) has already been completed. The physical progress of the entire project is 43.60 per cent. On the other hand, 69 per cent of construction of the 20 km BRT lane from Gazipur to HSIA has been completed. The project was taken up in November 2012 for completion by December 2016 at a cost of Tk 2,037.9 crore. But it got delayed due to various problems, including management of a massive quantity of industrial waste and huge traffic.

The long-awaited BRT system, which promises to bring the time to travel between Dhaka and Gazipur down to around 40 minutes, is set to finally begin operations in July next year. The service would start with 100 new buses, which would be able to transport 20,000 passengers per hour from Gazipur's Shibbari area to the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport. There would be a total of 25 stations on the corridor.

If anything happens in the country, the government can not shrug off the responsibility as it is in power. The government must take the responsibility for the victims’ families and compensate them. 

Roads and Highways Department, Bangladesh Bridge Authority, and Local Government Engineering Department are implementing different parts of the project under the supervision of the Dhaka BRT Company.

The ongoing construction work of the BRT project from Gazipur to Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka is causing huge sufferings for people of Gazipur and northern districts. The drainage system on either side of the road remains in very bad condition which is coupling the public sufferings in this monsoon.

Though the people are suffering a lot during this monsoon, it is expected that they would not have to suffer in the next monsoon. Vehicles will run smoothly on this road in the next year.

Waterlogging in the project areas between Tongi and Joydebpur is another major reason for the delay in implementation. The authorities concerned must use modern technology at every structure, as the government wants to see the safety and security issues as it is working to erase people’s sufferings. 

The architect, engineer, project director and officials concerned must keep in mind the safety and security of the people and employees who work there. 

A six-member body probing the BRT girder tragedy has submitted a preliminary report to the government. On Monday itself, the ministry of road transport and bridges formed the six-member probe committee to investigate the tragedy immediate after the accident. 

Meanwhile, a police case has been filed in connection with the tragedy. The FIR for causing death due to negligence does not name anyone but lists the crane operator and the company responsible for the project, China Gezhouba Group Co Ltd.

The case was filed at Uttara west police station on Monday night on a complaint from Afran Mondol, the brother of two of the deceased -- Fahima and Jharna. The crane operator and China Gezhouba Group Co Ltd have been listed in the FIR.

Police will investigate if the negligence of the crane operator and others concerned led to the accident.

Immediately after the incident, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina expressed deep shock and sorrow at the death of four people by falling down of a BRT’s girder on a car in the city's Uttara. She (Sheikh Hasina) on Tuesday asked the authorities concerned to bring the persons responsible for this deadly accident to the book and take stern actions against them.

She gave the directive at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council yesterday. On the other hand, Dhaka North City Corporation Mayor Atiqul Islam on Tuesday suspended BRT construction work in Uttara area till Thursday asking it to hold meeting with him. 

Expressing grave concern, the mayor said the accident occurred due to the sheer negligence of the BRT. He warned no one would be spared in this regard, saying such negligence would not be tolerated and accepted.  

On November 24 in 2012, at least 17 people were killed when three steel girders of the flyover collapsed during construction work at Bahaddarhat in Chattogram. A sub-inspector of Chandgaon police station had lodged a case accusing 25 persons including executive engineer of Chattogram Development Authority (CDA). Nine years have already elapsed but the procedure of the case has not been completed yet. The officials and employees, who were responsible for the incident, remain untouched till date.  

Repetition of such terrible accidents raises question about public safety. Had proper safety measures been taken in the project area, the deadly accident would have happened. Therefore, the government should not allow any development work to continue in this way. It must first ensure the safety of the people.

S. M. Mizanur Rahman is working as Assistant Editor at Bangladesh Post