Rampal project work in slow lane

FHM Humayan Kabir | Wednesday, 16 June 2021

The implementation of the Rampal 1320-megawatt (MW) thermal power plant, a fast-track project, is on the slow lane as only 66 per cent of the total job could be done as of April last, project insiders said.

It has now become an almost impossible task to complete the project even by the extended deadline that ends in August next, they added.

The Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited (BIFPCL) had signed the engineering, procurement, and construction (EPC) contract with the Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) of India for completing the installation work of the coal-fired plant within 41 months until August 2020.

The Indian contractor missed the deadline and extended it by one more year to August 2021, officials said.

A senior Planning Commission (PC) official said that although the project had been taken in 2009, it is unfortunate that the country is yet to get supply from the base-load power plant in spite of highest efforts made by the authorities concerned.

When asked, a Power Division official said: "The contractor has failed to comply with the contract in time due to the Covid pandemic. So, the government had to extend the deadline by one year."

The BIFPCL is executing the project at a cost of Tk 160 billion to enhance Bangladesh's cumulative power supply capacity.

According to the power division, the BIFPCL had spent Tk 105.12 billion, 65.7 per cent of the total project cost, as of April this year when the physical implementation was estimated at 66 per cent.

Meanwhile, the government of Bangladesh and its high-ups had laid highest emphasis on execution of the 10 fast-track mega projects, including the Rampal power plant.

"At the beginning, there were some hurdles in starting the physical works. But over the last 4-5 years, the implementing agency are working smoothly. Yet, the country has to spare the massive delays," said the PC official.

A senior Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) official said the contractor had already got an extension until August 2021 under the EPC contract.

"The Covid had hit the project work during the first wave of coronavirus last year. The loss could be make up through engaging adequate manpower," he said, adding that one-third of the works are still remained incomplete, however.

The installation works of the plant started in April 2017 amid huge protests at home and abroad by environmental groups that expressed concerns over the long-term impact of the plant on the biodiversity and ecology of the Sundarbans.

A project insider said that the progress of project implementation was affected as some the experts and engineers got stuck in India due to the spread of coronavirus in Bangladesh last year. When asked, a senior Power Division official said that as per the revised schedule, the power plant would start partial operation in the first quarter of 2022.

"Initially, the project had to face a lot of environmental issues. Last year, the expiration of visas of some 1,700 Indian staffers and workers affected the work progress. Currently, the Covid-19 is forcing us to slow down the construction work," he said.

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