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Haor Dam Graft Case: Jubo League leader held at airport

by August 17, 2017 General

The Anti-Corruption Commission arrested contractor and Jubo League leader Khairul Huda in a case filed over corruption and purposeful mismanagement in dam construction in Sunamganj hit hard by flash floods in March.

Khairul, convener of Sunamganj Jubo League and president of Sunamganj Chambers of Commerce, was detained at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in the capital around 12:30am when he was about to board a flight to Canada via Singapore. 

The ACC filed the case against him and 60 others, including Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) engineers and contractors, on July 2 after the anti-graft body in a probe found gross negligence and corruption in dam construction in Sunamganj.

The people in Sunamganj’s haor areas had to endure untold sufferings and count a huge loss of crop as the protection dams were breached during flash floods.

The ACC probe found that though BWDB engineers were aware of the possibility of flash floods, they “on purpose didn’t begin dam construction work at the right time and abused power for their and others’ benefit”.

“Though there is no provision for giving sub-contracts, such malpractice had taken place in some cases,” the ACC mentioned in the FIR.

Besides, construction work was kept suspended in some cases for a long period in breach of the terms of contracts, but the BWDB didn’t take any action, it said.

Nur Trading, owned by Khairul, was awarded five packages under separate work orders for constructing embankments in five areas in Sunamganj.

Though his firm was supposed to complete two of the packages by March 19 last year, it could finish only half the work by that time. Later, his firm got the deadline extended by the BWDB till March this year. Yet, it failed to complete the job.

His company also couldn’t complete the work of the other packages by the deadline of March this year. It could finish only 30 percent of the work by that time.

Talking to The Daily Star, ACC Assistant Director Faroque Ahmed said Khairul was arrested while he, along with his daughter, was checking in to catch a flight.

“We were informed that he was leaving the country. With the help of airport police, we arrested him.”

The ACC official said Khairul was produced before a court that sent him to jail in the afternoon.

Earlier last month, the ACC arrested suspended BWDB executive engineer Afsar Uddin and contractor Bachhu Mia from the capital’s Motijheel area in connection with the case.

The ACC also wrote to the public administration ministry to take stern action against the secretary of the water resources ministry, the BWDB director general and 14 other officials for showing gross negligence in discharging duties.

It made the move on the basis of its findings in the probe into alleged irregularities in constructing and maintaining dams in haor areas.

The water resources ministry and the BWDB have been refuting the allegations for long. They rather put the blame on excessive rains and rats for the damage of embankments.

But the ACC findings reinforced the media reports that there had been lots of foul play in the construction and maintenance of dams, which should have protected six million haor people from flash floods.

Thousands of people were affected by the devastating floods in the haor areas of Sunamganj, Netrakona, Sylhet, Moulvibazar and Kishoreganj with nearly three lakh people requiring immediate relief from the government and NGOs.

As the embankments got damaged badly, more than two lakh hectares of agricultural land were submerged, causing a loss of over a million tonnes of Boro crops.

The flash floods also rendered thousands of people temporarily homeless with many depending on relief for subsequent weeks for survival.

In 2011, the BWDB took up a project to ward off inundation and improve drainage system for protecting crops from early floods.

Under the project scheduled to end in 2019, the BWDB has so far built dams stretching over 1,500 kilometres in 36 of the country’s 87 haors.