Construction of the 850-metre-long Second Teesta Bridge over the river in Kaliganj of Lalmonirhat is yet to be completed even though a deadline for its completion expired in June last year.
Although a new deadline for the construction of the bridge has been set for December this year, uncertainty looms over its completion by that time, as the construction work of the bridge is going on at a snail's pace, locals said.
The unsatisfactory progress has frustrated thousands of people living in Lalmonirhat, Rangpur, and adjoining districts.
The bridge, once in operation, would connect Kaliganj upazila in Lalmonirhat with Gangachara upazila in Rangpur.
Navana Group-WMCG jointly got the work order for the construction of the bridge. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone on October 19, 2011.
Sources in the Local Government Engineering Department said a total of 85 girders and 17 slabs for the bridge would be constructed. Of them, only 26 girders and four slabs have been built so far.
The cost for the construction of the bridge was estimated at Tk 121 crore, they added.
Regarding the slow pace of the ongoing work, project manager Sadhan Kumar Saha said, “The construction work of the bridge is going on slowly as the prices of materials increased over time.”
Sadhan also claimed that a rise in the prices of construction materials was one of the main reasons why the company missed the first deadline for the completion of the bridge.
He asked this correspondent to contact LGED officials for further details.
Parvez Newaj Khan, engineer of Kaliganj upazila LGED, said, “The construction work was hampered during the countrywide strikes and blockades in early 2015 and that the firm could not bring machines and materials to the project site on time.
He, however, said the construction was going on smoothly now and that there was no fund crisis. The construction of the bridge would be completed within the new deadline, he added.
On December 17 last year, a girder of the bridge collapsed at the construction site. An engineer of the construction firm and two labourers were injured in the incident.
Another girder of the bridge collapsed on November 15, but no one was injured in that incident.
Locals alleged that low quality materials were used for the construction of the girders.
Manjur Islam, 50, of Mahipur Ghat area, alleged that the construction firm had used local sand and stones for making the girders, but LGED officials never protested against this.
Wishing anonymity, an engineer of Lalmonirhat LGED also echoed the locals.
After the girder collapse, LGED officials gave orders to destroy three other girders that were built along with the one that collapsed in December.
Neither the firm nor the LGED officials could specifically say why the three girders were being destroyed.
However, the executive engineer of Lalmonirhat LGED and the construction firm officials claimed that the girder, weighing about 157 tonnes, slipped from the gantry crane while it was being placed on the bridge's pillars.
Refuting the allegation of using low quality materials, they said the incident happened due to technical issues, and that it was just an accident.
The project manager too refuted the allegation of using low quality materials and said the girder collapsed as it slipped from the crane.
Contacted, Executive Engineer of Lalmonirhat LGED Al-Amin Khan said the project site is big, “so accidents might happen”.
He claimed that there was no scope for using low quality sand or stone, as the quality of the materials was tested before using them in construction work.
The firm would construct new girders and place those on the bridge, he said, adding that the whole process would be overseen by LGED engineers.
Al-Amin claimed that LGED officials always monitor the progress of the work to make sure that materials specified in the tender schedule are being used.
He expressed hope that the bridge would be completed by December this year, and it would be opened to public next year.
Several lakh people of Aditmari, Kaliganj, Hatibandha and Patgram in Lalmonirhat use the route which connects them with Rangpur city and other parts of the country.
Once the bridge is complete, it would ease communication, contribute to the development of the area, and help bring economic and social benefits for the people of this region.