Sunday, November 15, 2009
Are we building a "reban ayam" here?
The recent suspended bridge at Dipang which collapsed and claimed the lives of three schoolchildren on 26 October 2009 prompted me to write this article.
Prior to this incidence, we read about the collapse of the roof of a newly-completed stadium in Kuala Trengganu and that of a mosque in Kemaman. After the collapse of the Dipang bridge, I asked myself, "what else will collapse, I wonder?"
I also asked myself, "Are Malaysian engineers incompetent or do we have building contractors who cheat and cut corners here and there to maximise their profits? Or do we have field supervisors who collaborated with the contractors to compromise on quality and safety?
All these questions came to my mind before I read the article in The Star on 12 November 09, where it was reported that Education Minister Tan Sri Muhyiddin Yassin said that the investigation carried out by the Public Works Department showed that the bridge did not have a proper plan and its structure was weak.
So the bridge was built without a proper design? Of course, it goes without saying that when there's no proper design, not only the structure but everything else about the bridge would be considered as "weak".
I at first thought that the bridge had collapsed because of poor design by the engineer or the use of poor construction method by the contractor. It would be simple enough for an engineer like me to determine whether it was due to poor design or poor construction, but when our Education Minister announced that there was no "proper plan", it means that there was no professional engineer being engaged to carry out the design of the bridge. When there was no professional engineer being engaged to do the design work, everything else about the sizes and type of structures for the bridge would just be guessing work.
The thing that made me wonder most was, in the first place, how could the bridge be allowed to be built and used without a proper plan (design) being first drawn up and submitted and for the normal process of approval to take place? What made the person(s) responsible for the development of the unfortunate bridge think that building a bridge is like building a "reban ayam" (chicken coop), where you can just nail in the timbers and planks together and the "reban" will stand?
Wasn't there any respect and due regards for the safety of the public when the idea of building the bridge was first mooted?
The Education Minister also mentioned that a detailed report by a special committee set up to investigate the incident involving the PWD, Perak police and the state government would be completed at the end of the month.
I certainly would like to know the contents of the report after it is completed at the end of this month. I also hope to give my comments in this blog after I have read the report.