Another awful tragedy in the pursuit of development
The latest in the series of development-project-related tragedies in the country saw the crushing of five members of the same family on Monday, when a section of a box girder (meant for the Bus Rapid Transit project) fell off the crane carrying it at the Jasimuddin Road intersection in Uttara, Dhaka. As the crane – being driven by an operator who reportedly only had a light vehicle licence – toppled over, the girder fell onto the car carrying the victims including two children. Clearly, the crane was unsuitable to support the weight of the heavy concrete slab. Add to that the fact that this risky operation was conducted without closing off traffic on the road, making the "accident" all but inevitable.
As we try to process this utterly meaningless and totally avoidable tragedy, the question that arises is: How could the project authorities allow this to happen? What happened in Uttara is far from a one-off incident, however. On March 14, 2021, at least six workers, including three Chinese nationals, were injured after a girder fell on them near Dhaka airport. Then, on July 15 this year, a construction worker for the BRT project died after a crane fell on him at the Chandona Chowrasta area of the Dhaka-Mymensingh highway in Gazipur.
All this shows how nonchalantly public funds are being spent to accommodate the ever-rising costs of our many behind-schedule development projects. Are citizens also supposed to pay for them with their lives now?
Reportedly, the contractor, China Gezhouba Group Co Ltd (CGGC), was not supposed to conduct the loading, unloading, and lifting of viaducts for the BRT project during daytime. But due to being behind schedule (the project's original deadline was December 2016), the CGGC has been working round the clock. Our report indicates that at least one of the four implementing agencies is well aware of this fact. So, if such risky tasks had to be performed on busy roads, why did the project coordinators not enforce safety measures? Why didn't they pause traffic on the road or cordon it off when lifting the girder section? And why did they employ an unlicensed driver or an unsuitable crane for such a dangerous work? All this shows how nonchalantly public funds are being spent to accommodate the ever-rising costs of our many behind-schedule development projects. But are citizens also supposed to pay for them with their lives now?
The sheer negligence demonstrated by the BRT project authorities is totally inexcusable. Those sued by the family of the deceased for "death by negligence" must be investigated and punished properly. Such tragedies also stand as an example of a mindless pursuit of development without taking the safety or welfare of citizens into consideration. We urge the authorities to check the mounting human cost of development projects everywhere. No amount of development is worth such tragedies.