People suffer as LGED, WDB trade blame
A total of six bridges built on Fanai river, flowing through the southern part of Moulvibazar's Kulaura upazila, have either collapsed or partially broken down allegedly due to unplanned dredging of the river.
Finding no alternative, more than one lakh people of several villages under the upazila have been compelled to use those risky bridges on different rural roads for nearly two years, risking their lives.
Contacted, the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) authorities in Moulvibazar, alleged that the bridges have been completely damaged due to the re-dredging of the river in an unplanned way by Water Development Board (WDB).
On the other hand, the WDB authorities claimed that LGED constructed the unplanned bridges without taking into account the proper measurement of the river.
According to the LGED authorities, a 40-feet-long bridge on Palgaon-Mukundapur road in Rautgaon union was constructed under the Bridge Culvert Construction Project of the Department of Disaster Management at a cost of Tk 22 lakh in 2011-12 fiscal.
In 2018-19 fiscal, another bridge was constructed on Bhabanipur-Helapur road under the same project, spending about Tk 33 lakh.
Meanwhile, LGED constructed the other four bridges -- on Hashimpur-Laxmipur road, Bhabanipur-Nortan-Tilasijura road, Mukundapur-Kabiraji road and Gutguti-Kabiraji road -- at a cost of about Tk 30 lakh in 1997-98 fiscal.
In 2021-22 fiscal, WDB re-excavated about 40 kilometres of the Fanai, spending Tk 17 crore.
However, before the re-excavation work was completed, heavy rain from the upstream caused landslides that damaged the bridges, according to WDB.
During a recent visit to these areas, this correspondent saw the bridge on Palgaon-Mukundapur road had collapsed due to the landslides.
Locals placed a makeshift bamboo platform on the collapsed part for movements, but major accidents can happen at any time.
Only CNG-run auto-rickshaws and motorcycles were seen plying the other five vulnerable bridges.
Out of the six bridges, two bridges collapsed over a year ago.
Although LGED hung signboards on either side of all the vulnerable bridges, vehicles and pedestrians were seen using the bridges risking their lives.
A local named Tajul Islam said it is a wonder how a 40-feet-long bridge was built over a river which is 60-feet-wide.
Cracks started to develop after the re-dredging work was done, he said.
Kulaura Upazila Project Implementation Officer (PIO) Shimul Ali said under the Bridge Culvert Construction Project, there is no approval to build any bridge over a width of 50 feet.
However, the width of the Fanai river has increased a lot after the river re-excavation work, the PIO said.
"At the moment, we do not have the scope to construct any bridge over the width of 50 feet," he added.
Contacted, Moulvibazar LGED Executive Engineer Azim Uddin Sardar said due to unplanned re-dredging of the river, the condition of the bridges is too awful now.
Meanwhile, refuting the allegation of unplanned re-dredging of the river, Moulvibazar WDB Executive Engineer Mohammad Aktaruzzaman said the re-dredging work was done to control flood and maintain the water drainage system.
"The bridges were built a long time ago and the authorities concerned constructed those bridges without taking into account the measurement of the river at that time," he added.