Fast track projects on slow lane

Delayed implementation raises project cost, Padma Bridge to miss deadline again, Metro Rail may run partially from December

Shakahwat Hossain | Published: 00:13, Jan 19,2019


The implementation rates of most of the 10 fast track projects are poor despite special focus and monitoring by a special committee of the Prime Minister’s Office while economists think that delayed implementations cause cost overruns and lower expected benefits from them.
The Metro Rail is expected to run partially from December but the Padma Multipurpose Bridge is going to miss its extended deadline as timely implementation of the much-vaunted projects remained elusive, officials said.
Both the multi-billion dollar projects prioritised by the government putting on fast track programmes since 2013 are scheduled to be completed in the current year.
After missing several deadlines, Bangladesh’s first-ever liquefied natural gas terminal at the Bay of Bengal, another fast track project, received LNG experimentally in September 2018, but the construction of the second terminal and the gas line between Chittagong and Cumilla still continued.
The construction of Padma Bridge has been receiving most of the attention among the first track projects since allegation of tender manipulation raised by the World Bank and suspension of loan by the bank have finally forced the government to arrange fund from own source.
Padma Bridge project director Shafiqul Islam told new Age on Thursday that meeting the extended December deadline already looked uncertain.
‘We have to seek extension of the deadline once again for the completion of construction of the bridge on a most complicated river,’ he said.
Bridges Division, the implementing agency, has already asked contractor Major Bridge Engineering of China to calculate the time needed to complete the remaining 30 per cent of the main bridge.
Bridge Division officials said that the overall progress of the project, including main bridge, river training and approach roads, was 62 per cent as of December 2018.
The construction work began in 2014, two years from the actual time following cancellation of credit by the World Bank.
The deadline for the completion of the bridge construction was extended for fourth time December 2019 while the project cost was revised upward to Tk 39,258.13 crore from initial cost of Tk 10,161 crore.
Mirza Azizul Islam, an adviser to the military-backed interim government that approved the initial Padma Bridge project cost in 2007, said that utility of the bridge to its users might decrease because of delay in the construction and cost overrun.
He noted that users of the bridge would need to pay the ‘penalty’ for the cost overrun paying higher toll for crossing the bridge.
Fixing user-friendly fares on commissioning of the country’s first metro rail partly between Uttara and Agargaon by December 2019 already became a cause of concern for the state-owned operator.
Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited Managing director MAN Siddique said that a committee was already appointed to fix the fares.
About 35 per cent of the Uttara–Agargaon part of the metro rail was complete, he said, adding that the remained 75 per cent work to be done on surface was not difficult.
He said that they would open a mock train at Farmgate Park in June to teach users how to travel on monorail.
Padma Bridge Rail Link and Chittagong–Cox’s Bazar Rail Line are two important fast track projects scheduled to be completed in 2022.
The executive committee of the National Economic Council increased the Padma Bridge Rail Link project cost by Tk 4,257.94 crore to Tk 39,258.13 crore from Tk 34988.8 crore in May 2018, even before starting the main work because of delay in signing of loan deal with Chinese EXIM Bank against the backdrop of bargain between the two sides on the amount and conditions.
A Chinese firm was awarded the contract without any tender that created scope for manipulation in determining the project cost, said think-tank Policy Research Institute executive director Ahsan H Mansur,
He noted that the construction cost per kilometre of the 165km rail line between Chittagong and Cox’s Bazar was estimated at $9.9 million through open bidding while that of Padma Bridge Rail Link project was $15 million.
The proposed coal-fired power plant at Matarbari and nuclear power plant at Rooppur are scheduled to be commissioned in 2023 and 2025 respectively.
According to official estimate, the overall progress of the coal-fired power plant at Matarbari was 19.71 percent as of October 2018 while Tk 11,677.43 crore of the estimated Tk 1,13,092.91 crore cost for the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant was spent until October 2018.
The construction of deep sea port in Payra is scheduled to be completed by 2020 after one third of the project was completed until October 2018. The construction of another deep sea port at Sonadia still remains on paper.
Controversial coal-fired power plant by a Bangladesh-India joint venture at Rampal in Bagerhat near the world largest mangrove forest the Sunderbans is expected to finish by 2021 after its delayed start in 2017 amidst protests in home and abroad.
According to the officials estimate, the overall progress of the project until October 2018 was 16.67 per cent.

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