The high-budgeted repair work is not proving to be effective while also falling behind schedule
Repair work on a 38km-stretch of the Khulna-Jessore Highway continues to fall behind schedule.
Moreover, the newly repaired portions of the highway have signs of pavement damage, leading locals to question the quality of the construction.
Asad Sheikh, a resident of Chengutia, said: “The road asphalt tends to come off whenever vehicles brake a little harder than usual. These bits and pieces of bitumen then pile up on the road and make driving on it a nightmare.”
According to Roads and Highway Department (RHD) sources, Tk321 crore was allocated for the renovation of the 38km stretch of the highway from Chapabari to Rajghat in Jessore.
The work was divided between two construction companies. Toma Construction Ltd was given the work of renovating the 19km of the highway from Padmabil Rajghat to Chengutia at a cost of Tk147 crore, while the remaining work went to Mahbub Brothers Construction.
The project work began in June 2019 and was scheduled to be completed within a year. However, the contractors missed the deadline and subsequently sought extensions twice.
Jessore RHD Executive Engineer Moazzem Hossain said: “Segments of the highway in Chengutia, Rupadia, and Rajbandh, which were renovated in January-February 2020, began showing signs of damage. Having said that, there weren’t any errors on the contractor’s part. The road was damaged due to freighter vehicles carrying extra loads over the highway’s capacity.”
“We are now taking steps to monitor vehicle loads. A scale will be placed at the entrance of the highway. The owners and drivers of vehicles will be made aware of the situation,” he added.
Sajib Hossain of Rupdia said, “Heavy vehicles are meant to ply on the highways. That’s why engineers are appointed to prepare for that eventuality. It seems contractors are always finding new ways to make their pockets deeper with corrupt money.”
Truck driver Farooq Hossain said he had doubts about the quality of work at the site. “As soon as you brake hard on the Chengutia portion of the highway, there is significant pavement damage. If this is due to overload, why only on this highway? We don’t face such issues on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway.”
Speaking on the issue, Moniruzzaman Patwari, the project manager for Toma Construction, claimed there was no problem with the quality of work his company had provided.
He said: “The highway is being equipped with a load capacity of 30 tons, but trucks on this highway carry double that maximum load. On top of that, these trucks are having to frequently press their brakes on the move because of the busy nature of the highway. Moreover, some trucks carrying freshly mined sand from the river, dripping water all over the road, make it more susceptible to pavement damage.”
Meanwhile, Kamruzzaman Patwari, the project manager for Mahbub Brothers, claimed that the RHD was satisfied with the firm’s work, but said there were some issues on the road due to overloading which Toma Construction was resolving.