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Considering the length, width of the bridge and the area, spending such an amount of money for the bridge has also raised questions.

On condition of anonymity, several engineers of DSCC told Prothom Alo that the unusual construction cost of the bridge has been fixed only to embezzle money through corruption.

Construction cost of such a bridge should not cross Tk 30 million anyway considering the current market rate of construction materials. It should be investigated.

The bridge falls within the newly added ward no.72 of the DSCC. The Shapla City Housing project is right next to it. The company had already increased the price of lands after construction of the bridge started.

During Sayeed Khokon's tenure as mayor, the DSCC undertook a project worth Tk 5.15 billion in 2018 to develop the infrastructure of DSCC's newly added Nasirabad, Dakshingaon, Demra and Manda area. This bridge is being constructed under that project. The bridge has been named as 'Bridge over the Shapla City canal' in the documents of the DSCC. The field level work for the construction of the bridge started in May 2019 after the project was approved.

At first a proposal was to construct 17 bridges under this project. However, after verification, some 12 bridges were approved.

On condition of anonymity, three officials of the engineering department of DSCC told Prothom Alo that there were various inconsistencies in the implementation of the project. They came to know about these in phases while working at the field level. Construction work of six bridges, including the bridge in the Manda area, is near completion.

Incumbent Mayor Sheikh Fazle Nur Taposh has instructed not to construct the remaining six bridges. However, the construction of the physical infrastructure of these bridges has not started yet.

A visit to the Manda area in the first week of July revealed that the main structure of the bridge has been completed. Now the work is underway for the construction of the connecting roads.

The signboard of Shapla City Housing Project can be seen as soon as the bridge is crossed. The housing project has been developed by filling the low lying areas with soil. However, there is no boundary wall in the project area. There are several water bodies in the project area and some low lands are submerged in water.

Local resident Md Anwar said the total amount of privately owned land including the housing project is about 170 bighas.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, he said more than 100 residents of Manda have lands here. Before the construction of the bridge, the price of the land was Tk 800,000 to 1 million per katha. Now the price for the same amount of land has increased to Tk 1.3 to 1.5 million.

He claimed that at one point after hanging the signboard in the area the Shapla City authorities tried to buy his land forcibly. He also claimed that a total of 24 cases have been filed against him as he refused to sell his land.

Prothom Alo repeatedly tried to contact Md Badruddoja, managing director of Shapla City Limited, over the phone but he did not reply. He even did not reply to the SMS sent by this correspondent.

Later Prothom Alo contacted Amirul, a marketing official of Shapla City, through a number provided on the Facebook page of the company. He said he is not the right person to talk about this.

About half an hour later, a man named Ramzan Ali contacted this correspondent and requested to know about the questions the managing director was asked about. He also said that he is in charge of the media wing of the organisation.

Later he said Shapla City had not forced anyone to sell any land under private ownership and the housing project has no connection with the construction of the bridge.

However, several officials of the DSCC told Prothom Alo on the condition of anonymity that the construction of this bridge was abruptly included in the project only to benefit the private housing project. The then top officials of the corporation had some interest behind this.

However, project director Tanveer Ahmed claimed the bridge has not been constructed to benefit any private organisation. There was a plan to construct a linking road till Rampura staff quarters from the end of the bridge. However, he does not know whether the plan would be implemented or not.

A 66-metre long bridge over Chela canal in Bhatgaon union of Chhatak upazila of Sunamganj, similar to the bridge in the Shesh Matha area of Manda, was inaugurated about one and a half years ago. The bridge built at a cost of Tk 32.4 million is not being used because there is no road after the bridge.

Prothom Alo published an illustrated report on this bridge on 20 December 2020 under the headline “Bridge next to the leader’s house”. Besides, Prothom Alo carried the lead news on the same day on the bridge construction projects based on assumption under the headline “The cost of guessing Tk 253.1 billion”.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Iqbal Habib, an architect affiliated with the citizens' movement, said it is important to look into why the bridge is being constructed in an uninhabited area of Manda without any necessity. Otherwise, it will be clear that it has been done with corrupt intention.

It is a wastage of public money, Iqbal Habib said adding if the money is wasted, then legal actions should be taken against those involved.

*This report appeared in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu

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