The horrific accident that occurred in Uttara during the construction work of the Bus Rapid Transit project - one of the many initiatives the country has been forced to take up to try and ease capital Dhaka's traffic woes - has stunned the nation. It can be easy to write off such accidents as random 'acts of God' over which we mere mortals have little control. But a closer perusal of the facts surrounding this latest one reveals we have plenty of reason to feel aggrieved, and that there was so much that could have been done to prevent this latest one from occurring.
We already know that the operator at the control panel of the hydraulic crawler crane - which let the girder slip because it was carrying a load heavier than its capacity - did not have the required licence. There is no scope to brush this off as just another case of driving without a licence, since there are some technical issues involved in operating a crane. Just how much it is able to lift and move around depends on the distance from which it is doing the lifting, for example. We also know - inconceivable as it may be - that the street where the risky construction work was going on was not cordoned off, in clear violation of safety protocols.
Even more gallingly, this was far from the first accident, or even fatal accident, that has occurred as part of this same project. Exactly one month earlier, just one month, a construction worker was killed when a crane fell on him, also injuring a pedestrian. Last year, we were spared human casualties in a pretty major accident that saw the launching girder of the project in Gazipur collapse and injure six workers, including three Chinese ones. Girders have slipped and fallen on pedestrians and construction workers on at least four separate occasions during the course of the project.
The Roads and Highways Department, Bangladesh Bridge Authority and Local Government Engineering Department are implementing different parts of the project's works, while the Dhaka BRT Company is overseeing operations.
The planned 20.5-kilometre bus corridor will allow people to reach Dhaka from Gazipur, the nearby city where cost of living is much lower, in 35-40 minutes. This journey now takes somewhere between 1.5 and four hours. From the airport, one will be able to take the metro rail -- now under-construction -- to reach other parts of Dhaka. The project is estimated to cost Tk 4,536.46 crore and following numerous delays, slated for completion in 2023 - nearly 7 years behind schedule.
Now even by Bangladeshi standards, that is an inordinately long delay. And predictably enough, part of the reason the risky construction work was going on in the daytime without closing off the relevant portion of the road to traffic was the Chinese construction company's urgency to try and finish the work as early as possible. An initial probe by the government has held the company responsible, and the Chinese ambassador in Dhaka has intimated that Beijing will have no issues with any penalty that may be imposed on them. It will do nothing to ease the pain of those whose loved ones were crushed unimaginably in Uttara. But it may just restore some value to human life that at the moment seems to be sourly missing in Bangladesh.
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