While the widening work of the national highway between Elenga and Jamalpur continues at a snail’s pace, no one seems to care about the health hazards as well as rampant accidents people are being subjected to.
The situation turned for the worse after Wahid Construction Limited and Jamil and Company -- the two contractors liable for the four-lane conversion work of the highway -- suspended their work for the last two months.
During the period they left large ditches, excavated on the sides of the highway for the widening work, unmarked and exposed to oncoming traffic as well as to pedestrians.
Aside from that, as they made one side of the highway off-limits to vehicles at different points, the other side developed numerous large-sized potholes due to an extra load of traffic on the portion of the road.
Vehicles moving over the potholes are kicking up huge clouds of dust, posing health risks for everyone on the road, while the potholes and the unmarked ditches are turning into death traps when those remain hidden under water after rain.
As accidents and vehicle breakdowns have been frequent, drivers are having to drive at a reduced speed on the road, causing traffic congestions almost all throughout the day.
Locals, especially students, who live on both sides of the highway are the worst sufferers as they have been enduring the dust pollution and all the other hazards every day.
Transport workers frequenting the highway said over a hundred people were injured, many of them seriously, since the work started on the road.
The contractors, under the supervision of Roads and Highways Department (RHD), started work on the Tk 489.82-crore four-lane project of 77.60 kilometres of the highway in February this year.
Approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council on April 3, 2018, the project has an implementation deadline of June, 2020.
Saiful Islam, a driver of a bus transport service on Tangail-Jamalpur route, said the potholes on the road as well as the ditches on the sides pose serious safety hazards to moving vehicles and passengers in those.
The potholes are also causing expensive damage to the vehicles, he also said.
Atiqur Rahman, a rights activist from Ghatail area, said although people have been suffering immensely due to the poor condition of the road, no one from the two contractor firms were seen at the site for the last couple of weeks.
Asked, Assistant Engineer Mozammel Haque of RHD admitted that the contractors suspended the work for the last two months.
Claiming that he was not aware of the reason for the suspension, he, however, said the work resumed several days ago after the RHD pursued the matter with the two firms.
“A joint secretary from the ministry also came to see the work a few days ago and he warned the contractors saying that the deadline to complete the project would not be extended in any way,” he added.
Project Manager Hafizur Rahman of Wahid Construction Limited said, “The work has resumed already and it will be completed by the deadline.”