Pandemic doubly slows fast-track projects in Bangladesh

Shakhawat Hossain     | Published: 23:41, Jun 01,2021 | Updated: 23:48, Jun 01,2021


The implementation of four fast-track multibillion dollar infrastructure projects is yet to get momentum risking cost overruns despite years-long special focus on them, officials said.

They are Dohazari–Ramu–Cox’s Bazar Rail Line, Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant, Padma Bridge Railway Link and Payra Port projects.

Panning minister MA Mannan, however, said that the progress of other fast-track projects like the elevated Metro Rail in the capital, the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, the Matarbari Coal Power Plant and the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant was not bad.

The progress could have been much better had Covid-19 not slowed down activities throughout the outgoing fiscal year, he told New Age on Tuesday.

The current 2020–21financial year will expire with the end of this month.    

Only the construction of the LNG Terminal at the Bay of Bengal — one of the10 fast-track projects — has been completed while the Sonadia deep sea port construction has been almost at a standstill.

The projects were included in the list of fast-track projects in various years  after the special monitoring system under the Prime Ministers’ Office was introduced in 2013.

Planning ministry officials said that an inspection report by its Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division recommended giving highest priority to the timely implementation of the Dohazari–Ramu–Cox’s Bazar Rail Line project by the current deadline of June 2022.

IMED director Md Mahbubur Rahman, who furnished the report based on  his inspection January last said that chances were slim in meeting the extended deadline that has 17 months left.

Undertaken in 2010 at an estimated cost of Tk 1,852.35 crore, the implementation of the project was delayed by six years due to lack of funding sources.

The Asian Development Bank came forward in 2016 to finance the railway project but the project cost by that time had escalated almost 10 times to Tk 18,034 crore.

In a meeting in that year the executive committee of the National Economic Council approved the revised cost of the project and extended the project deadline until June 2022.

Cost overruns have become a regular phenomenon for development projects in Bangladesh while they reduce the economic viability of projects, noted former World Bank Dhaka office lead economist Zahid Husaain.   

The Dohazari–Ramu–Cox’s Bazar railway project director Mofizur Rahman said on Monday that he did not see the IMED report.

He said that they still stuck to the current deadline although the first Covid shutdown in the past year put the project activities on a complete halt for more than two months.

The project had also faced land acquisition problems before the virus outbreak, he added.

The Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant, being implemented by Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited at the controversial site of Rampal in the vicinity of the Sunderbans, is also unlikely to be completed by the present deadline of August 2021.

An update sent by power company officials to the IMED in the past month said that some 61 per cent of the Tk 16,000 crore project had so far been completed.

The IMED in its report on the Padma Bridge rail link undertaking, implemented since 2016, suggested that the implementing agency should introduce monthly targets to finish the project in line with the present deadline of 2024.

Most of the project cost worth Tk 39,246.80 crore has been received in supplier’s credit from China.

The government has meanwhile decided to use the country’s foreign currency reserve to implement the Payra Port development project after it scrapped a deal which the shipping ministry had signed with the Belgium-based company Jan De Nul for the dredging of the Rabnabad channel by borrowing Tk 8,643 crore.

According to IMED officials, the country’s most expensive venture worth Tk 1,130,92.91 crore — Rooppur Nuclear Power Project — which started in 2016 with Russian loan had around 36.50 per cent of the work done until April 2021.

The project is scheduled to be completed by 2025.

The overall progress of the Metro Rail Project in the capital, being implemented d since 2012, stood 42.28 per cent as per an IMED inspection in December 2020.

The progress of the work on the Uttra–Agargaon section of the project is 68.87 per cent.

In March 2021 the deadline of the much-talked about Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project was extended again until June 2023 after the Covid pandemic interrupted the progress of the project.

The government plans to open the bridge to traffic by June 2022.

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