The Financial Express

Bangladesh's all but two fast-track projects miss deadlines

| Updated: September 20, 2021 11:20:43

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All the fast-track projects in Bangladesh, save two, missed execution deadlines to entail massive cost escalation, insiders said.

The Padma Bridge, its rail link, Rampal power plant, Pyra seaport development, Dohazari-Ramu-Cox's Bazar-Ghundum railway route, and Matarbari power-plant projects have been revised on several occasions so far.

Only two other fast-track mega-projects—MRT line-6 and Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant—are on track, needing no revision.

The Padma Bridge construction is the oldest project among the fast-track ones as it was approved back in August 2007, involving a cost of Tk 101.62 billion. The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had given the all-clear, after a great deal of fusses and fiddles following disputes from would-be foreign financiers.

The project had faced a massive delay in its initial stages for the funding row with the international development partners, including the World Bank.

Construction work on the 6.15-kilometre-long bridge started in November 2014 with an escalated cost of Tk 205.02 billion-double the original amount of Tk 101.62 billion. The new deadline fixed was December 2015.

For a second time the project was revised in 2015, jacking up the cost to Tk 287.94 billion and extending the execution deadline until June 2018.

It had been revised for the 3rd time, enhancing the cost to Tk 301.93 billion and re-fixing the deadline to December 2019.

But the cut-off time was extended over again to June 2021 as the BBA missed it again.

Similarly, Bangladesh Railway (BR) has failed to make headway on the Padma Bridge rail- link project as it yet has to complete more than 50 per cent of the works to complete by June 2023.

The rail project was approved by the ECNEC in May 2016 with a cost of Tk 349.88 billion and scheduled to be completed by June 2022.

In May 2018, the ECNEC revised the project enhancing the cost to Tk 392.47 billion and the deadline by two more years to 2024.

Although the construction works for the Padma rail-link project began in October 2018, the cumulative physical progress had been nearly 45 per cent till last fiscal year (FY) 2020-21, project-insiders said.

In early December last year, the design of the rail project had to be altered after some flaws in the design were detected.

According to the Bridges Division, the height of the rail line was set at 4.8m and 5.2m at Mawa and Janjira, respectively, instead of the standard height of 5.7m. Furthermore, the width of the rail link was shown as 9.5m at Janjira and 10m at Mawa, instead of the standard 15.5m.

A senior official at the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project told the FE that it was likely to see another extension and cost overrun following some challenges, including the COVID pandemic disruptions.

"Recent changes made to its design, slow pace of work during the COVID-19 outbreak and different government decisions and demands of local representatives were the bottlenecks in implementing the project in time and within budget," he said.

Another the fast-track project, the 1320mw Maitri Super Thermal Power Plant at Rampal, a joint venture of Bangladesh Power Development Board and NTPC Ltd of India, saw physical progress of 68.85 per cent and financial progress of 69.20 per cent.

The Rampal power plant has already missed the deadline as schedule for the commissioning of the 660mw first unit was September last, said company-insiders.

But the work progress by BHEL was not satisfactory even before the COVID-19 outbreak, and now the commission was delayed further.

Another fast-tracker, Dohazari-Cox's Bazar-Gundum rail project, also faced a massive delay as it had posted only 32.22 per cent financial progress and 61 per cent physical progress till July 2021.

The IMED suggested placing "the highest importance" on completing the project by June 2022.

The Tk 359.84 billion Matarbai 1200mw coal-fired power-plant project is in the slow lane as its cumulative physical and financial progress stood at 50 per cent.

A new deadline for the project, which is funded by Japan International Cooperation Agency, is June 2023.

The ECNEC approved the project titled "Matarbari 2X600mw ultra supercritical coal-fired power", involving Tk359.84 billion, way back in 2014.

Officials at the Matarbari project said they need to extend the deadline as the COVID impact hit the implementation hard.

The primary infrastructure-development project of Payra port is also set to be delayed by two years with an increased cost.

The cost was increased by 23 per cent from the last estimate of Tk 33.50 billion to meet additional expenses on land acquisition, among others, as the ECNEC approved its third-revised proposal in November last year.

The project, which is being implemented by an agency under the shipping ministry, was undertaken in 2015 with an estimated cost of Tk 11.28 billion. The expenditure went up to Tk 33.50 billion in the first revision.

Government efforts to prepare the master plan and design of Payra deep-sea port by engaging Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology and a consultant firm of the Netherlands has not been finalised.

As of now, only 50 per cent of the master plan has been completed.

A public-private partnership project of Tk 2.14 billion for the construction of a coal terminal at the port has been taken but the project-implementation committee is yet to recast it.

Another Pyra port-related project was undertaken at a cost of Tk 39.82 billion in January 2019 and scheduled to be completed by December 2021.

Now, it will be proposed to increase the cost to Tk 45.16 billion and another one and a half years for completion.

Meanwhile, the Rooppur nuclear power plant, supported by Russia, had recorded a progress at 37.99 per cent till July this year.

The project is set to be commissioned by 2025.

The MRT line-6 is also progressing well as the entire Uttara-Agargaon-Farmgate-Motijheel 20.1km line may be implemented by the stipulated deadline in June 2024, project-insiders said.

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