It's like pouring cold water on a grand dream. That the launch of the eagerly awaited 20.1-km elevated metro rail in Dhaka seems set to fall behind schedule is likely to depress many. As per an FE report published on 28.05.2019, progress in the work of the metro rail project (MRT-6) may have missed the target by around 18 per cent till last April. With the residents of the gridlocked Dhaka looking to the ceremonial opening of the overhead metro rail on the 50th anniversary of the country's independence in 2021, the news is taken with unease. According to the Road Transport and Bridges Minister, the metro rail in Dhaka will be launched on December 16, 2021, amid celebrations of the country's golden jubilee of independence. The Uttara-Motijheel metro rail was viewed as a great potential respite from the day-to-day ordeals of traffic congestion on the city's major roads. But quoting a monitoring report of the government, the FE report provides a rather bleak portrayal of the under-construction metro rail route. It has been learnt that Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) implemented 28.90 per cent of the MRT-6 project until April against the target of 46.42 per cent.
Given the broad picture of the whole project, including the benefits set to be enjoyed by the long-afflicted commuters, the let-up adds to the foreboding about future delays. Citing reasons for the delay, a reliable source at the ministry concerned blames the belated start of the MRT-6 construction under packages 5 and 6. It is presumed to have made the project's overall progress lower than the target. However, there is a silver lining. As the official maintains, the progress of the project is expected to gain momentum from the coming fiscal year 2019-20. The contract packages (CPs) 5 and 6 cover Agargaon-Farmgate and Karwanbazar-Motijheel stretches respectively. Of the two, CP-5 has completed only 7.5 per cent of the physical work until April, while CP-6 has done 124 pilings out of 692 until last month. Reports of almost similar performances have been gleaned from the other contractors and implementing agencies.
A rather disheartening picture comes from none other than the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED). It has found that the DMTCL has not been able to implement its targeted job (46.42 per cent of the total work) until last month. It's worth mentioning that the government had approved the project in July 2012 at a cost of Tk 219.85 billion with financial support from Japan. The grand work was given the topmost priority as it had been included in the list of 'fast track' list of projects.
Bangladesh has embarked on a number of massive public projects in the last few years. The nation has potent reasons to take special interest in them. All of them target easement of their lives, along with improving their lot. They include the Padma Bridge, 4-lane highways, an 8-lane highway corridor, flyovers --- and, of course, the Mass Rapid Transit, especially the MRT-6. The residents of capital Dhaka have been eagerly awaiting timely completion of the metro rail under MRT-6, and its inauguration in 2021, the golden jubilee year of the country's independence. Non-fulfilment of the project on time will be a cause for what we still believe to be an avoidable public despair. Apart from their sufferings caused by the messy state of the under-construction project, the delay may also lead to cost overrun.