Stalled dev works raise concerns

Shutdown could result in waterlogging, mosquito attack in Dhaka
Road and drainage development works on this road in Badda remain halted due to the government-enforced shutdown to stop the spread of coronavirus. Photo: Star

With the shutdown in place to contain the spread of coronavirus, many ongoing development works of the two Dhaka city corporations have come to a standstill.

But more importantly, failure to carry out the pre-monsoon sewerage and drainage systems cleaning drive due to the shutdown may end up resulting in serious waterlogging in many areas as well as rise in mosquito population, feared engineers and contractors.

At present, they are not even sure when they will be able to resume the works, let alone finishing those.

Last month, while writing a story about the condition of the city's footpaths, this correspondent spoke to Ejajul Islam Ansari, assistant engineer of Dhaka North City Corporation (DNCC zone-5), who has been looking after the drainage and median work on Manik Mia Avenue.

A confident Ansari had assured this newspaper then that the work would be over within two months.

But talking to him recently painted a different picture.

"We stopped all the development works around March 26 because of the recent crisis. We don't even know when we will be able to resume," he said.

Saidur Rahman, executive engineer of DNCC (zone 3), is facing a similar predicament. He said drainage, footpath and road development works were going on in Banasree, Niketon, Baridhara, Badda, Gulshan and Banani areas but they had to stop those due to the Covid-19 outbreak.

"We may need to wait for a while before resuming work. Due to the pandemic, work period for the projects might have to be extended, however the budget will remain the same," he said.

Not just the city corporation officials, but contractors assigned to do the job are also in a fix. Due to the pandemic, they had to leave the work halfway through.

Some said even if they wanted, they would not be able to do the work as most labourers have left the city.

Abdul Hai, a contractor working in DNCC projects at areas including Niketan, Mohammadpur and Uttara, said "We always try to finish the projects before the rainy season starts, which won't be possible this time."

The proprietor of Asif Traders said the drainage development works were not yet completed and the upcoming monsoon will spell trouble for both the residents and contractors.

"Due to monsoon, the work will slow down. Also, on a regular day we need around 40-50 labourers but during the rainy season we need over 100 workers to get the job done. This will also make the cost go up," he added.

Besides, they had kept the piles of sand, bricks and rods on roadsides, he said, fearing those might get damaged or stolen.

Another contractor, Khairul Hasan, whose company Opal International was working on a Dhaka South City Corporation project to solve the waterlogging problem in the secretariat area at Topkhana (zone-1). As per agreement his company was scheduled to finish the work within June.

"We have completed 80 percent of our work. We just needed a couple of days more but we had to abandon our work due to the virus outbreak," he told this correspondent.

"We have installed drainage pipes underneath the footpath, surrounding the secretariat. However, we did not get enough time to cover up the pipes and carpet it with cement," he said, adding that they did fill the gaps so that people can walk over it.

Khairul also said most of his labourers had left the city. He said since most of the work has been done, he is hopeful that they will be able to finish the work quickly once the situation improves.

"We cannot ask for extra money from the city corporation as we already signed a contract to finish the work within the decided budget. But there's a chance that construction materials may get pricier given the situation," he added.

Meanwhile, city dwellers are also concerned. They said once the present crisis passes, they will have to worry about waterlogging, unfinished roads, footpaths and mosquito attacks.

"In our area, drainage work has been going on for months. Now, the work is left half done… there's craters at many places… when monsoon starts and the situation does not improve, there will not only be waterlogging but also mosquito problem," said a worried Sabuj Alam, a resident of Badda.

Sanjidul Hasan of Shahjadpur said, "Usually the city corporation is to blame for a patch up job or leaving the work untended, but it's different now… it's not in their control."

Saiful Alam, executive engineer of DSCC (zone-1), seemed to agree with residents.

"It's a situation we had no control over. However, we are still on duty and doing the emergency work from our engineering department," he said. "For example, if any particular road gets damaged and ambulance cannot go through, we repair it right away with our limited manpower."


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