Corruption and development: Bangladesh bridge collapse is a familiar story

In Bangladesh, it is easy to find many such stories of superficial development. Development cannot be sustained in the long term because it takes place using substandard material, mainly due to corruption and lack of good governance, writes Minhazur Rahman Rezvi for South Asia Monitor
Oct 22, 2018


Development means positive change. It is a universal term, not confined to special, elite or political groups. Development oriented in one direction cannot sustain in the long run. It must be universal and multi-dimensional to be quality development.
When development cannot achieve sustainability or universality, it becomes a developmental disaster. What is called “face-powder (or cosmetic) development” is a developmental disaster for a society. What is face-powder development?  Face powder is a cosmetic used on the face for beautification. The tendency to use face-powder is high in developing countries like Bangladesh, creating a temporary artificial layer on the skin. If one washes one’s face after using face powder, the artificial beauty will disappear; it is temporary.
Similarly, face-powder development is fake development. It just makes a thin layer in the name of development and is not sustainable.  Development projects in Bangladesh can be destroyed even before their inauguration. Although all development policies of Bangladesh are focused on sustainable development, that is rarely the case. There are many examples of this fake development which is neither sustainable, nor participatory.
A case story of “face-powder development” was reported by the Bengali daily Naya Diganta on September 15, 2018. The incident occurred in Rangpur district of Bangladesh. The second Teesta Road Bridge was located in the Gangachara upazila (sub-division) of Rangpur; it collapsed two days before its inauguration. With the collapse of the road bridge and link road, communications between the four upazilas of Lalmonirhat and Rangpur were completely disrupted.
Greater Rangpur – Dinajpur district rural communications and other infrastructure development projects planned an 850-metre-long and 9.6-metre-wide second Teesta Bridge to connect Kakina in Lalmonirhat with Laxmitari in Gangachara union of Rangpur, including carpeting of the seven-km-long link road.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the project in 2012.  The estimated cost was Tk 121 crore. The bridge was to be complete by July 31 in 2014, but the contracted company, M/s Navana Construction, could not complete the work within the stipulated time frame. After extending the deadline for a third time, Navana Construction completed the construction on December 31, 2017, at a cost of Tk131.86 crore. The bridge was expected to be inaugurated on September 16, 2018. However, the second Teesta bridge collapsed on September 14, two days before it could be inaugurated. Local people alleged that the construction company used substandard materials for the construction.
In Bangladesh, it is easy to find many such stories of superficial development. Development cannot be sustained in the long term because it takes place using substandard material, mainly due to corruption and lack of good governance.
M/S Navana construction used substandard materials for construction by siphoning off huge amounts of money. Also, government authorities did not monitor and regulate its activities during the construction. Government has not ensured the proper accountability of M/S Navana group for their actions.
As a consequence, other opportunity seekers will find loopholes to exploit and be corrupt. These loopholes have increased the rate of cosmetic development in developing countries resulting in infrastructural disasters.
(The author is studying for Bachelor for Social Sciences in Development Studies at University of Dhaka, Bangladesh. He can be contacted at minhazurrahmanm@gmail.com)

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