Civil engineering contractors in Bijoynagar upazila have been using earth and substandard bricks to repair a vital road that connects Akhaura land port with at least three nearby upazilas.
But the contractors are having a field day with the Tk 20.92-crore project as officials of the supervising authority, Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), have been deviously distancing themselves from the work site, alleged locals.
The 17.5-kilometre-long stretch of the road being repaired lies between Chandura bus stand and Singarbeel Bazar on Akhaura-Chandura road -- the only means of communications for residents of 10 unions in Bijoynagar upazila.
It is also used by residents of Bijoynagar and Akhaura upazilas of Brahmanbaria and Madhabpur upazila of Habiganj to communicate with the Akhaura land port. A large number of trucks carrying stones from Sylhet division use this road to reach the land port.
Moreover, communications between the headquarters of Bijoynagar upazila and Brahmanbaria district are conducted via this road.
Despite its significance in the region, the contractors have been using a mixture of exceedingly low-grade brick chips, earth and a negligible amount of sand to lay bitumen macadam surface on the road, the locals said.
This correspondent during a recent visit to the area found truth in the allegation made by the locals. When the issue of substandard materials being used in the work was pointed out to a supervisor of Moitri Builders, one of the contractor firms, he neither denied nor agreed to the allegation. "What's being used is what you see," he said callously.
Babul Aktar, a former vice-chairman of Bijoynagar Upazila Parishad, said he even made a written complaint about the quality of work to the then upazila nirbahi officer (UNO) Meher Nigar.
Despite using this road every day to and from Brahmanbaria district headquarters, the chairman of Bijoynagar Upazila Parishad never raised objection to the shoddy work. As such, there is still no one to supervise the work and the contractors are still using the worst quality of bricks in the repair work, he said frustratingly.
Satgaon village resident Amrit Lal Saha said, "Nobody ever noticed any LGED official supervising the repair work of the road. Evidently, the contractors are working in any way to obtain their heart's desire."
They are also not complying with the 70:30 brick chips and sand ratio, set for construction of roads with bitumen macadam surfaces, he added.
Asked what steps were taken after she received the written complaint about the substandard repair work of the road, Meher Nigar, the former UNO who is currently working as secretary to Brahmanbaria Zila Parishad, said upon receipt of the complaint, she had paid a visit to the site and warned the contractors of stern action if they use substandard material in the repair work.
Contacted, the serving Bijoynagar UNO, KM Yasir Arafat, said in the few weeks since he joined the new workplace, he did not receive any formal complaint regarding the use of low-grade material in the repair work of the road.
However, after finding out that slow pace of the work has been causing great inconvenience to locals, he has asked the contractors to expedite the work, he also said.
Jamal Uddin, engineer of LGED in Bijoynagar, did not answer his cell phone this Wednesday when this correspondent made several attempts to reach him for his comment over the accusations. A text message sent to the same number also remained unanswered.