Thursday May 25, 2017 10:35 PM

Fast-track projects not so fast

  • Published at 03:36 AM May 14, 2017
  • Last updated at 12:57 AM May 15, 2017
Fast-track projects not so fast
Photo:Syed Zakir Hossain

Although the ruling Awami League government had committed itself to completing at least three of these mega projects before the end of their tenure, policymakers are now anxious because of their sluggish progress

Of the government’s 10 top-priority infrastructure projects, called the fast-track projects, only the Padma Bridge has made a significant progress while the others are lagging far behind their schedules.

Although the ruling Awami League government had committed itself to completing at least three of these mega projects before the end of their tenure, policymakers are now anxious because of their sluggish progress as political parties gear up for the coming national elections.

The mega projects were planned by the government as popular initiatives for creating a sustainable economy. The projects are supervised directly by a Fast-Track Project Monitoring Committee and a Fast Track Task Force, with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina chairing both.

Only Padma bridge project however, has made significant advancement over the last couple of years. Some of the fast-track projects even failed to begin within the stipulated time. As a result, project costs jumped up when the actual construction began.

The government now badly wants to make Padma Bridge operational by December 2018 before the next election.

It also wants the superstructure of the metro rail project phase 1 (Uttara-Agargoan) and Payra seaport (phase 1) to be completed by 2018.

The project authorities have demanded a smooth money flow for the next fiscal year to enliven the slow-moving projects.

The government has also responded quickly, sources said.

The Annual Development Plan (ADP) for the 2017-18FY is likely to be set at Tk164,031cr. The mega-infrastructure projects will get a large share of this.

Eight of the projects will get Tk33,761cr, nearly double the allocation from this fiscal’s Tk18,727.36cr.

This allocation was sought at a recent meeting at the Prime Minister’s Office.

However, the construction work of the LNG terminal and the Sonadia deep seaport are yet to start because the government has not finalised the projects. It may even withdraw from the Sonadia project. If the project be raised, it will be implemented on government to government (G2G) basis. So government yet estimate the cost of the project.

There is also a plan to convert the Payra seaport to a deep seaport.

Coordinator of the fast track projects Principal Secretary Kamal Abdul Naser Chawdhury told the Dhaka Tribune: “We are confident about achieving the goals of the mega projects. Construction of Padma Bridge is likely to be completed by scheduled time. Metro Rail faced some delays after the Holey Artisan terror attack but it is back on track again and hopefully will be complete by December 2019.

“The rest of the projects are not scheduled to be completed anytime soon but hopefully they will also be completed within stipulated time.”

Economist Ahsan H Mansur said a mega project is divided into two parts – preparation work and construction work.

“But in most cases the government takes too much time to prepare the project proposal, and them in most cases bureaucrats cannot prepare the proposal correctly. So the investors are not interested in the project and it is delayed,” he said.

Metro rail Project

The government is constructing Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project (metro rail) to improve transportation in the capital. Commuters can move from Uttara to Motijheel in 38 minutes.

metro rail

Road Transport Minister Obaidul Quader said “The project faced delay due to Holi Artisan attack in Gulshan while seven Japanese were killed who were involved in the project. But we already overcome the crisis and let the work is started with a full swing.”

The project has eight contract packages. Land development work (CP-1) is underway. The metro rail authority has signed deals with two firms for the construction of viaduct and stations under the contract package 3 and 4.

Rooppur nuclear power plant

The initiative for a nuclear power plant started in 1974 with Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman leaded government following discussion with the Soviet Union in 1974. However no agreement was reached. The rolling Awami League government again started discussion with the Russian government in 2009 and finally signed a Memorandum of Understanding aiming to start the construction work by 2013.

rooppur

However, the civil work to prepare the 260 acres of land for the country’s first-ever nuclear power plant at Rooppur in Pabna’s Ishwardi upazila on the bank of the Padma River is almost complete but main construction work has not started yet.

Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) under the Science and Technology Ministry is implementing the mega project.

“Preparation work is almost complete. The main construction work will hopefully begin on September,” said Anwar Hossain, secretary to the Science and Technology Ministry.

The main construction work however, was scheduled to start in January.

The power plant is the country’s biggest-ever project in terms of financial involvement requiring an estimated Tk1,13,092.91cr.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the project in December 5, 2016 aiming to construct two units of a nuclear power plant with a capacity of 2,400MW. Each unit having a capacity of 1,200MW. A unit to be completed by 2021.

The Russian Federation has already approved a loan of $11.38b with the condition of repaying the money in 20 years.

Rampal Power Plant

The Rampal power plant has made little progress since the government planed it in 2009. Only the land development work of the project is done. Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited is implementing the project.

rampal

A Power Division summary said 135KVA generator and transmission line for power supply into the project area has been completed along with five watch towers for security.

However in August 2010 when a MoU was signed between Bangladesh Power development board and Indian’s state-owned National Thermal Power corporation it was designated to implement the project by 2016. But further it is re-scheduled to be completed by 2023.

Matarbari 1,200MW ultra super critical coal-fired power plant

The government is constructing a coal-fired power plant in the Chittagong region aiming to strengthen the power capacity counting as priority project. But the progress rate of the project is very slow, even authority yet to complete preparation work.

materbari

ECNEC approved the project in March 2016. Land for the project has been handed over to the Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Limited.

A project summery noted that the company completed the land development work and fenced the area by April this year. Besides, a construction firm just started the work of 132/33kv substation and transmission line.

Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar-Gundum single line dual-gauge rail line

Though the Cox’s Bazar rail link project was undertaken six years ago aiming to boost tourism to the coastal district, but the progress of the fast track mega projects is very slow. Only 2.2% of the project has been finished.

During a recent visit to the project area it was found that Railway is only now carrying out the acquisition and demarcation of 1,390 acres of land needed for the project.

Railway Secretary Mofazzel Hosain said: “We have already invited tenders for construction of 100km rail line. Now we are evaluating the bidders. Hopefully construction work will begin next August-September.”

The Asian Development Bank approved around Tk12,000cr in September 2016 after completion of a feasibility study.

Padma rail link project

The Padma rail link project is one of the fast-track projects yet to have its funding confirmed. As a result completion of the project by the deadline is impractical.

The project aims to lay a total of 172km railway tracks between Dhaka and Khulna’s Mongla.

However, Railway Minister Mujibul Haque said: “We are trying to partially complete the project during the opening of the Padma bridge project in December 2018.”

Railway officials said the project has two phases – Dhaka to Mawa and Zajira to Faridpur and Khulna. At the moment, land acquisition is underway. If possible the rail link will be connected first between Padma Bridge and Faridpur.

“We have demanded around Tk5,000cr to speed up the construction work in the Jajira-Faridpur region, but the allocation may be Tk5,500 crore,” said an official.

Payra seaport

Although the country’s third seaport at Kalapara in Patuakhali is already partially operational, progress of the second phase of the project is very slow.

“We are currently constructing a five-story administrative building and warehouse which can help boost the business of the port. Hopefully the project will be implemented by 2018-19,” said the shipping minister.

As per the Plan, Payra seaport would be developed in three phases by the 2023. l

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