The Planning Commission and IMED received requests to extend the deadlines of 109 projects in June
Over a hundred ongoing projects of Bangladesh Railway (BR) and the Department of Roads and Highways (RHD) require deadline extensions since the projects have been progressing at a snail’s pace.
The Planning Commission and Implementing Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) received requests to extend the deadlines of 109 projects in June, the end of the 2020-21 fiscal year. Among the projects, 24 are under BR and 85 under the RHD.
“IMED used to approve deadline extensions for all projects that required them, but the situation has changed now. We do not extend deadlines until we know the real cause of the delays, and so many of the requests were sent back for them to mention the cause,” said Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty, secretary of IMED.
He could not specify how many extension requests had been sent back.
Some of the major reasons behind such a falling behind were delays in land acquisition, delays in foreign loans, and a lack of manpower, as well as the Covid-19 pandemic.
The RHD is implementing 200 projects across the country, mostly to develop road networks and construct bridges. The government had allocated Tk24,824.41 crore for the RHD in FY21.
Among the projects, 85 of them missed deadlines in June this year.
After the RHD applied for deadline extensions, the IMED called meetings with the authorities of each of the projects between April and June to discuss the causes for the delays.
One of the projects requiring a deadline extension is the Tk255.29crore Hemayetpur-Shingair-Manikganj highway upgradation project. This will be the third deadline extension for the project, as it was supposed to be completed in June 2019.
Construction of the project is yet to be completed, even though land acquisition has long been completed and there are no problems with funding.
When asked what was causing the delay, IMED officials said negligence and lack of skill were the major factors that had led to the deadline being missed yet again.
On the other hand, the upgradation of the existing 50.58km Ashuganj-Akhaura road to a four-lane highway has been stalled due to problems with land acquisition. The Indian construction company AFCONS Infrastructure Ltd has been assigned to implement the project under a Tk3,000 crore LoC.
Md Abdus Sabur, chief engineer of the Roads and Highways Department, told Dhaka Tribune: “Delays in land acquisition is the main reason for missing the deadlines. Covid-19 is another cause of delays.
“Apart from these, shortage of skilled manpower and loan disbursement are major causes for the delays,” he added.
Currently, BR is implementing 41 projects at a total cost of Tk 1,41,883.70 crore, most of which are funded by loans from various countries, including India, China, Japan, and South Korea, as well as by the Asian Development Bank.
According to BR, the deadlines of 24 of these 41 projects were missed in June this year.
Of these projects, 20 are for construction, rehabilitation and expansion of rail lines or bridges, or installing signalling systems and level crossings.
Besides, four projects are for procurement or renovation of locomotives or carriages.
Among the 24 projects, 19 have had their deadline revised at least once, and several on multiple occasions.
Projects such as the 64.75km Khulna-Mongla Port rail line, construction of the 3rd and 4th lines from Dhaka and Tongi and a double line from Tongi and Joydebpur, rehabilitation of Kulaura-Shahbazpur section, and the procurement of 70 metre gauge locomotives have already missed deadlines.
Buet civil engineering department Prof Shamsul Hoque told Dhaka Tribune: “Government agencies like BR or RHD lack technical and skilled manpower, along with their negligence in implementing a project.
"It is probably logical that one or two projects may face delays and cost escalation. Unfortunately, almost all projects are facing the same fate, meaning there are faults in the system that are increasing our development pains,” he added.