According to the Planning Commission, the government has decided to accelerate some projects during the last four months of this fiscal year
Despite various measures taken by the government over the past nine months, its mega projects are still facing impediments in getting back on track and thus are set to miss the deadlines for completion.
Apart from an extension of project tenure, officials say, many of the projects will get costlier because of the two-month suspension of all activities due to Covid-19 last year and the other associated problems.
The Padma Bridge Project will miss its latest deadline, which is June 2022, as the Road Transport and Bridges Ministry has already sought an extension of two years for the completion of the country’s largest infrastructure development project, stating Covid-19 and strong currents in the river as primary factors.
Activities of all the projects came to a total halt when the government declared a nationwide lockdown in March last year, following the outbreak of the deadly coronavirus. Foreign nationals involved in the projects left the country.
Work on the projects resumed on a limited scale in June but not in full swing since there are still many precautionary measures to be followed for that to be done.
Against this backdrop, the government revised the Annual Development Program (ADP) for the current fiscal year after assessing overall progress in and challenges to 1,673 projects, including the 10 mega projects.
The ADP has been downsized from Tk2,05,145 crore to Tk197,643 crore as many projects could not utilize funds due to the pandemic.
The National Economic Council (NEC) fixed Tk31,391 crore for allocating the 10 mega projects, which is Tk1,930.40 crore less than the original allocation of Tk33,321 crore.
The NEC will cut allocation from Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Dohazari-Cox's Bazar-Gundam Rail Link, Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway Project (DAEEP) and Karnaphuli Tunnel as the projects could not spend the allocated funds within the current fiscal year.
According to the Planning Commission, the government has decided to accelerate some projects during the last four months of this fiscal year.
These projects are: Padma Bridge Rail Link Project (PBRLP), Payra Seaport, Matarbari 1200MW Power Plant, Matarbari Deep Seaport and Metro Rail. The projects will get additional allocation in line with the revised ADP.
However, many officials believe none of the projects will be completed by their deadlines, except the Metro Rail Project.
The government is placing ample importance on the first-ever metro rail as it is desperate to open it partially in December this year. Yet this will be a daunting task given the current progress of the project.
“The activities of these mega projects came to a standstill mainly due to coronavirus infection. We cannot deny the impact of the coronavirus pandemic,” said Pradeep Ranjan Chakraborty, secretary of the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED) of the Planning Commission.
“Although the progress of the projects is gradually picking up, it will not be possible to reach the desired level for the overall financial year. That is why the expenditure is less than the desired amount,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
Ruppur Nuclear Power Plant
The physical progress of the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant Project has been 32.65% since the start of construction work in 2017. In January 2020, the IMED termed the financial progress unsatisfactory.
The Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, the largest development project in the country's history, is to be implemented by December 2025 with a loan of Tk91,040 crore from Russia while Tk22,052.91 crore will come from state coffers.
Padma Multipurpose Bridge
The total progress of the project is 84%, while the progress of the main bridge is 92% and progress of river training is 78%.
The Chinese construction company involved has already appealed for an extended deadline until April 2022. So the project is not likely to be completed within the deadline of June 30, 2021.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, however, recently said the Padma Multipurpose Bridge would be open for traffic by June 2022.
Construction work on the metro rail project resumed at the end of May after being suspended in March following a public holiday announced by the government. The hurdles having been overcome, 11.73km of the first phase of Bangladesh’s first elevated metro rail project between Uttara and Agargaon are now visible.
The Mass Rapid Transit (MRT line-6) is scheduled to open in 2024. However, the authorities are trying for an early commission and planning to open it by December this year.
MAN Siddique, managing director of Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL), the implementing agency of the project said: “We are not yet sure about opening the metro rail by December as Covid-19 has consumed a couple of months [of progress].”
According to the DMTCL, progress of the first phase of the project stands at 81.38% until February 25.
Padma Bridge Rail Link Project
Bangladesh Railway cannot achieve the target of progress due to Covid-19.
It claimed that more than 35% of the construction work is already finished amid the pandemic.
Dohazari-Cox's Bazar-Gundam Rail Link
As the Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar, Ramu-Gundam in Myanmar border single line dual gauge track project is not progressing at full pace, the government cut allocation of Tk550 crore out of Tk1,500 for the current fiscal year. Infrastructural progress is 42% and financial progress is 28.65%.
Nurul Islam Sujan, the railway minister, said the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project and Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar Rail Link project were suspended during the general holiday (lockdown), which led to snail’s progress. But he said the project would gear up immediately, as construction work had resumed in full swing.
On the other hand, though more than 65% of the construction work of Karnaphuli Tunnel has been completed, construction work on DAEEP has still not started.
“Construction work of DAEEP will start immediately as Exim Bank has already approved the loan,” project officials say.