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Rampal project in slow lane

Half of physical work completed so far

| Updated: July 12, 2020 21:04:47

A signboard is seen near the Rampal power plant project at Rampal Upazila in the southwestern district of Bagerhat — Collected A signboard is seen near the Rampal power plant project at Rampal Upazila in the southwestern district of Bagerhat — Collected

The slow progress in Indo-Bangla power project in southwestern Rampal threatens to undermine the government's "fast-track" initiative, people familiar with the situation said on Friday.

The controversial 1,320-megawatt thermal power plant near the Sundarbans has been struggling with implementation delays as only 50 per cent physical work could be completed so far, they said.

The construction of the Tk 160 billion-plant was supposed to be completed by June 2020.

People involved with the project doubted the Bangladesh-India Friendship Power Company Limited, the project-executing company, will be able to complete the coal-fired plant even by December this year, the new schedule.

A senior company official said that it would not be possible to complete the work by December next as there were delays in the past due to fund mobilisation complexities.

"Besides, the coronavirus has delayed the construction work for the last few months. Now, it will be difficult to complete the work within the stipulated time," he said requesting anonymity.

The official said the power plant could be commissioned in 2022.

Joint secretary of the power division Nurul Alam told the FE that the joint venture company has recently given them a re-schedule for the project completion and commissioning of the plant.

When asked about the delay, Mr Alam said, "You know that the project was struggling for environmental issues. Then, the expiry of visas of the Indian staffers and workers and the recent coronavirus pandemic have delayed work further. So, we've to wait for one and a half years for commissioning."

The Rampal project faced stiff opposition from the environmental groups due to its location beside the Sundarbans. Environmentalists fear the coal-fired power plant will wreak havoc on the world's largest mangrove forest, which is home to critically endangered Bengal tigers.

The company had signed the engineering, procurement, and construction contract with the Indian Bharat Heavy Electricals Limited (BHEL) in July 2016 for completing the 2X660MW power plant within 41 months.

It means the deadline for completion of the entire installation work is December 2020.

Meanwhile, the fast-track project monitoring committee headed by principal secretary to the Prime Minister, last month had asked the power division to take necessary steps to expedite the construction work aimed at supplying electricity to the national grid from early next year.

The meeting participants said the principal secretary was unhappy with the poor implementation progress of the Rampal power plant project.

The power division had presented the progress report where it showed that the company completed 50 per cent physical works and spent 52 per cent of the total cost until May 2020.

After repeated attempts on Friday by phone, power secretary Dr Sultan Ahmed could not be reached for comments on the reasons for delay.

The company is a JV between India's state-run National Thermal Power Corporation and Bangladesh Power Development Board, for which an agreement was signed in 2012.

In July 2016, the Indian company BHEL was awarded an EPC contract worth $1.5 billion for the plant.

A year later, Indian Export-Import Bank extended $1.6 billion loan to BIFCPL for the construction of the Rampal coal power plant.

In April 2017, the construction of the Rampal coal power plant started with a view to completing it by December 2020.

The US power solutions company GE was awarded a subcontract worth $40 million by BHEL to supply components and services for the steam generator island package for the 1.3GW coal-fired power project in May 2017.

The Indian company --Power Mech Projects-- received a $70 million contract for civil and architectural work of all buildings, structures and associated work for the power plant in January 2020.

The BTL EPC, a subsidiary of India-based Shrachi Group, was awarded a $31 million contract to design, manufacture, supply, and commission the complete coal conveyor system for the plant in September 2018.

The contractors and suppliers involved with the construction of the coal jetty for the power plant include Afcons Infrastructure, a subsidiary of India's Shapoorji Pallonji Group, and the Dextra Group.

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