Uncertainty looms large over the construction of 34 cyclone shelter-cum-schools in Lakshmipur under the Multipurpose Disaster Shelter Project (MDSP) at a cost of around Tk160 crore due to the negligence of the contractor company, Navana Construction Limited.
The authorities have shown 48% progress of the project in four years, which was supposed to end in two years. However, a field visit to the project area revealed only 20-25% of most of the buildings have been completed
The authorities have expressed concern over the delay in the construction work of the project.
Under the project, the dilapidated tin-shed structure of Gaiyarchar Government Primary School in Dakshin Char Ababil Union of Raipur upazila was demolished in 2017 to build a new three-storey building within six months. But in four years, the construction has not progressed beyond the pillars.
Manoj Chandra Das, headmaster of the school, said, "We want the contractors to vacate the place. We do not need the new building. Where will the students sit if the school opens after the lockdown? Students will not come to school if they cannot sit."
He further said that he has informed the administration more than once through the upazila and district education offices regarding the construction of the school building but no action is being taken.
Navana Construction Limited started the construction of a three-storey building for Gaiyar Char Government Primary School in September 2017 at Tk5 crore 19 lakh. The construction was supposed to end in two years. So far, only 28% of the work has been done.
The construction of a new building for Char Pagla Patwaripara Government Primary School building in Torabganj union of Kamalnagar upazila is also under the project. But so far, only the pillars have been constructed in more than three and a half years.
Freedom fighter Mofizul Ullah, president of the managing committee of the school, said, "The temporary tin-shed house built for the students during the construction of the building has also been demolished. I don't know where the classes will be taken in the future."
The contractor is trying to collect the bill without constructing the building, he added.
The construction work of the three-storey school building at a cost of Tk4 crore 23 lakh was inaugurated on 1 April, 2018 by former Member of Parliament Abdullah Al Mamun. However, in more than three years, the contractor could not even complete the construction of a roof.
According to the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) Laxmipur office, Navana Construction got a work order to construct 34 cyclone shelter-cum-schools, 20.45km roads and 22 culverts under the Multipurpose Disaster Shelter Project (MDSP) with the assistance of the World Bank.
The project started on 12 November, 2017 and was supposed to end on 11 November, 2019. The local government department was given the responsibility to supervise the work.
Under the project, the company was hired to construct six cyclone shelter-cum-school buildings in Lakshmipur Sadar, 10 in Ramgati, six in Kamalnagar, six in Raipur and three in Ramganj upazila. But after almost four years, the company could not complete the project till July this year.
A field visit to the project sites revealed that most of the construction works are still limited to the pillars and ground floor of the buildings. Brick work has been partially completed at Bhabaniganj Government Primary School, Khasmahal Shakchar Government Primary School and Madhya Shahchar Government Primary School in Sadar upazila. Work on the remaining 31 school buildings is limited to the great beam, roof and pillars on the first floor.
However, according to the Lakshmipur LGED office, by 30 April this year, separately 26-60% of the works of the buildings and an average of 48% of the project have been completed. Officials at LGED's district office could not say when the rest of the work will be completed.
Project Manager HM Mahbubur Rahman refused to say anything about the project when contacted over the phone. Officials of Navana Construction also did the same.
However, an engineer at Navana Construction said on condition of anonymity that there has been a shortage of rod, cement, sand and stones since the beginning of the work.
"Big projects cannot be done in such a crisis. Many engineers have left the project because of that. Many of those who are still working do not get salary and allowance for three to four months," he said.
He added that at the beginning of the project, about 300 people were working for 34 buildings. At present, there are about 100 people. However, most of them have not been paid for many days.
Mohammad Shah Alam Patwari, executive engineer of the Lakshmipur LGED office, said, "We informed the higher authorities in April to cancel the project agreement with Navana. Due to the budget limit, there was no tender for this work through our office. That's why we cannot do full supervision."
He said, "Navana Construction does not cooperate with any of our officials with information. There has been uncertainty over the completion of the project and its quality."