THE cost of the construction of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, in progress since 2014, has gone up by Tk 14 billion riding on a proposal approved on Thursday for the acquisition of about 1,162.7 more acres of land to be used as dump of sand dredged from the river. It has increased project cost, finally, to Tk 301.93 billion, three times the initial cost of Tk 101.61 billion, when it was approved by the military-driven government in August 2007. In the meantime, the inclusion of railway in the project increased the cost to Tk 205.07 billion, almost double the initial cost, when the Awami League-led government first revised it. The last revision before Thursday’s proposal was made in January 2016 when the cost increased to Tk 287.93 billion. The inclusion of railway, which is needed, in the project could push up the cost. But the way the project cost has been increased several times matches the way the cost of almost all big projects, in almost all sectors, go up as days roll on.
Any increase in project cost, in all sectors, should be transparent and accountable. Besides, inclusion of any component in a project in the middle of implementation is indicative of a poor planning in its initial stages and speaks of inefficiency of the agencies involved in project implementation. The other problem that plagues the project at hand is its timely completion. Set to be completed by this December, the Bridges Authority could so far implement 53 per cent of the work, with only 9 percentage points being done in nine months of the outgoing financial year. About 44 per cent of the work had been completed until June 2017. In a situation like this, the completion of the remaining job, about 47 per cent, by the current deadline, therefore, seems to be an uphill task. What remains worrying is that a Bridges Authority proposal for a further extension of the project is pending approval of the Planning Commission as the authorities are having trouble with the piling work of 21 piers of the bridge. While this will delay the project completion, it might also add to the project cost further.
The government, under the circumstances, must judiciously work out plans for big projects so that public money is not squandered away. While it must complete all such projects by the deadline, taking all possible ramifications beforehand when the project is conceived, it must also stop adding to the project cost without transparency and accountability.
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