It has been a work in progress in different wards of Dhaka South City Corporation (DSCC) to alleviate public sufferings mainly from the deluge during rainy season and its after-effect that causes severe damage to main thoroughfares as well as narrow lanes.
But with the next rainy season nearing, the residents and even many councillors of those DSCC wards are not convinced that the repairs of the roads and drainage system would make any qualitative change, although the authorities are spending a lot of money.
Under different projects mainly for repairing roads and drains, the DSCC has invited 33 tenders involving about Tk 245 crore over the last one and a half years. Many of these projects, which were scheduled to be completed by December last year, are yet to be finished, according to Central Procurement Technical Unit's data.
Project Director Asaduzzaman said about 60-70 percent of the job have been completed and the rest is expected to be finished by June.
But a first-hand experience tells a different story -- people's sufferings due to the “snail pace” of the work, the quality of it and a lack of supervision.
Subid Ali, 60, was pulling his rickshaw carrying three sacks of rice. He was heading to Shahidnagar of Lalbagh from Badamtoli wholesale market. As he crossed the Lalbagh Police Station, he found several manhole cover slabs in a narrow alley.
Sweating profusely, Subid managed to negotiate his way over a couple of slabs before his rickshaw tilted to one side. Luckily, he suffered only minor injuries on his back and left hand.
Interestingly, the incident took place on the afternoon of April 4, a few hours after DSCC Mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon announced the schedule for a mass cleaning campaign from his office.
“On March 28, they [contractors] poured concrete from Raj Narayan Dhar Road to Lalbagh Police Station and left the rest part in this state,” said Habibur Rahman, one of the locals who rushed to help Subid.
The road known as Beribadh-Lalbagh connecting lane is about 677-metre long. And the contractor poured concrete over some 200 metres from both entrances, and left the rest in a sorry state. It is part of a Tk 6.4-crore job for repairing the road and the drainage of wards 23 and 24. The work was supposed to be completed by July last year.
Ward 24 Councillor Mosharraf Hossain said they complained about this to the mayor on a number of occasions.
“I informed the mayor several times about the sluggish progress. In my presence, he [the mayor] even admonished Jewel [the contractor],” Mosharraf told this reporter on March 20.
But when he mentioned the name of Khairul Hasan Jewel, an organising secretary of Awami Swechchhasebak League, it served as a riddle.
Document shows that a different company owned by a different person got the tender and signed a contract with the DSCC on February 27.
When The Daily Star contacted the owner of that construction firm, he first declined to comment. Pressed, he admitted that his company was doing that work, but did not want to talk further.
This is how much you are supposed to get officially when unofficially so many arm-twisting stories are widely discussed and shared -- ranging from participation in tender till completion of the job -- in the corridors of the DSCC and many other government works elsewhere.
Jewel's company Opal International, however, got a lot of the project works.
Opal and Nawal Construction, owned by Bhola-3 Awami League MP Nurunnabi Chowdhury, won 15 tender bids involving Tk 133 crore. Both firms are at fault of working well behind the schedule.
DSCC took up 24 projects titled “Development of different Infrastructures under Dhaka South City Corporation” for 44 wards.
Of the 24, Opal's got three projects worth Tk 27 crore for repair of roads and footpaths and cleaning drains under 10 wards were supposed to be completed between May and December last year.
But during a recent visit to different spots, this correspondent found that the construction firm has failed to meet deadline of the work in the 10 wards -- 1, 2, 3,4,5,6,8,12 and 13. The only lucky area is Segunbagicha, which is under ward 20.
The main road of east Basabo falls under ward 4 and some parts of it will give you a hell of an experience. With construction materials carelessly left unattended and large manhole slabs standing in the way, the otherwise 30-feet wide road turns into a narrow passage at some points, creating nuisance for rush-hour traffic.
Amid such a chaos, Majid Mia was trying to pull out his rickshaw van, crammed with students, from a pothole as a long queue of vehicles grew behind him.
At last, with the help of a local shopkeeper, he managed to pull out his van.
“I couldn't ask the students to leave the van for their safety.... Who do I blame?” he said, while paddling his way to Siddheshwari.
“They began construction in September last … the rest you can see. They left it like that two months ago,” said Abdul Hakim, manager of a furniture shop there.
Opal International has also got another seven tenders involving Tk 39 crore for sidewalk drainage and road improvement for pedestrian mobility under the CASE Project funded by the World Bank and improvement of road median in the DSCC area and repair of damaged road of wards 23, 24, 25, 26, 28 and 29.
Nawal Construction got five tenders worth Tk 67 crore from the DSCC for repair of roads and footpaths and cleaning drains in wards 55, 39 and 19.
The work in wards 19 and 39 were supposed to end by mid-2017, while those in ward 55 by March 11 this year.
The construction companies failed to complete their job in any of these wards by the stipulated deadline.
In ward 19, workers were seen installing blocks on footpath and covering road with earth the road adjacent to Viqarunnisa Noon School and College on April 5.
“It will take another 10-12 days to complete the work,” said a worker under a sub-contractor.
In ward 39, Nawal renovated the drains but did not repair the adjacent road.
While such delay is a common phenomenon, the quality of work, according to locals and ward councillors, hardly matches the specifications of the tender documents.
On a night of the last week of March, workers of another contractor, Tech Squard, came and poured concrete on the Asheki Road in Islampur under ward 36.
“In the morning, we found cracks at many parts of the lane,” said Akbar Hossain, a local.
“We complained to the councillor. Three or four days later, two people came with liquid cement and poured those on the cracks,” he said.
Most of the councillors vented their frustration.
“Locals voted us. We have to face them every day but we can't give them any reply when they tell us about poor work or slow progress,” said a councillor, wishing to remain unnamed.
“We're not given any copies of the work order or the work schedule to check whether the contractors are using good materials or completing the work in time,” said the veteran councillor.
The Daily Star talked to 20 councillors and all of them expressed similar frustration over the ongoing repair work in their areas.
Project Director Asaduzzaman has admitted that councillors are not given copies of work orders and work schedules.
But he justified the matter saying the councillors already know about the work because the city mayor inaugurates the work in their presence.
This is a violation of standard procedure, which stipulates copies of work order and schedule should be given to the ward office.
Contacted, DSCC Chief Engineer Ali Ahmed said the tenders were awarded in line with the Public Procurement Rules.
About copies of work orders, he said, “They [councillors] have every right to get the copies. We'll give it to them if they want.”
Asked about the slow progress, Jewel blamed the rain last year.
“We've already completed 60-70 percent of the work. It will take another 15 days to complete it,” he said on April 15.
Jahangir Alam, project engineer of Nawal Construction, said the work could take about a month to complete. “There was a crisis of quality materials. That's why we were late to begin the work.”
Tech Squard Manager Nure Alam Sopon said they had to take permission from the locals before they could start working, which caused the delay.
Regarding the crack on the road, he said, “I've not heard it before. We'll look into the matter.”
The Daily Star tried to reach DSCC Mayor Mohammad Sayeed Khokon for his comment over phone but he did not pick up. The correspondent also sent queries over SMS and email but did not get any reply.
Lawmaker Nurunnabi also could not be reached over phone.