The Padma bridge project office has surrendered almost 60 per cent of its budget for the current (2020-21) fiscal year as, authorities say, utilisation of the entire amount will not be possible by next June.
According to sources in the office, the country's largest infrastructure project would be ableto spend only 41.29 per cent of the allocation in the fiscal year. The Covid-19 pandemic has been cited as the main reason for the slow progresswhich is leading to extension of the deadlineby a year or so.
The Bangladesh Bridges Authority is going to extend the deadline for completion of the 6.15-kilometre Padma Multipurpose Bridge (PMB) to June 2022 from June 2021.
Officials concerned said an amount of Tk 50 billion was allotted this fiscal, which was earlier deemed the last year of the Tk 301.93-billion project.
Already, Tk 242.89 billion has been spent for construction of the bridge.
However, only an amount of Tk 8.67 billion was spent, out of Tk 50 billion allocation, in the first six months of this fiscal.
Then the budget was revised for the road-cum-rail bridge project and it got Tk 20 billion in the revised budget for the next six months.
Director of Padma Bridge project M Shafiqul Islam said the amount (Tk 50 billion) was sought as per earlier assumption. "As the deadline is going to be extended, the whole amount is not required this year," he told The FE at his office.
Mr Islam still said the revised deadline was not confirmed yet as consultants were working on it.
Both the road transport and bridges minister and the cabinet secretary have hinted at extension of the deadline for the bridge construction to June 2022.
The project authorities sought Tk 29.99 billion in the revised budget for the six months till June 2021 but 25 per cent of the demand was cut because of fund constraints, sources in the office said.
The progress in the fast-track project was recorded at 91.5 per cent.
The project suffered setbacks before and during the coronavirus pandemic.
A majority of Chinese nationals working on two major components – main bridge and river training work – left Dhaka to celebrate the new year in December 2019.
Following the lockdown declared in China, nobody could join the office for four to five months, slowing down the project work.
The sources said the project had a target to finish main bridge work by April 2022 in the present circumstances as span placement work was done by last December.
According to the progress report till December, it was possible to complete 51 per cent of the 2,917-roadway slab placement work.
It has placed 70 per cent of the 2,959 railway slabs on the two-tier bridge-rail below and road atop.
Although approach roads on both sides of the bridge were completed in 2016, river training work is still behind the schedule.
Its progress till December was recorded at 78 per cent.