THE closure of the First Bangladesh-China Friendship Bridge, also known as Postagola Bridge, in Dhaka to vehicular traffic since Monday night has inconvenienced people living in the area, especially in attending work. The bridge, which plays an important role in the daily lives of people, especially low-income people who work in the capital but live across the bridge to minimise their living cost, has been closed to vehicular traffic after a rescue ship of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority, heading towards the Sadarghat launch terminal from Narayanganj to salvage a launch that capsized in the River Buriganga on Monday morning, hit the bridge and damaged the structure. The rescue ship could not cross under the bridge as its crane, which reportedly could be lowered, hit the bridge structure and made a crack in the bridge. The accident stalled the rescue operation by several hours. The entire episode once again exposed the inefficiency of the river transport sector, which appears to care very little about the safety and comfort of public at large.
While more than 34 people died in the launch capsize, thousands suffered on the road because of the bridge closure. The Roads and Highways Department says that the bridge was damaged as the BIWTA rescue ship did not lower the crane fitted on it to its minimum height; it could have avoided hitting the girder. The department plans on asking the Inland Water Transport Authority to take action against the people responsible for the accident. The Inland Water Transport Authority, meanwhile, brushes aside the allegation and says that the crane was lowered as expected, but it was the swelling of the river water and low height of the bridge that has caused the damage. If the Roads and Highways Department is right, the Inland Water Transport Authority is at fault by way of the inefficiency of the driver. And if the Inland Water Transport Authority is right, the incident points to a planning flaw in the bridge construction, which squarely falls on the Roads and Highways Department. The government should initiate a review of both the allegations. Public cannot be made to suffer because of the inefficiency and mismanagement in the sector.
The government must, therefore, investigate the presumed inefficiency of the rescue ship driver and review the design and plan of the bridge to resolve issues raised in the context of the accident. The investigation and the review must be done expeditiously. But the government first must repair the bridge, if it is possible, and open it to vehicular traffic. It is unacceptable that the rescue operation was stalled because of the accident that speaks of inefficiency of both the authorities.
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