Most projects are lagging behind planned progress schedules and require a reconsideration of deadlines
Despite the government’s efforts to gear up the construction work of mega projects, progress remains slow due to the coronavirus situation in Bangladesh.
Every day on an average 3,000 people are being infected with the coronavirus in the country.
Meanwhile, many foreigners involved in the mega projects had returned to their respective countries. However, many of them have already returned to join work. The Bangladeshi workers who left the project site due to the public holidays announced earlier have also returned to work.
Government officials said senior foreign engineers, consultants and other staff can return once flights become regular, which is unlikely to happen if the coronavirus situation cannot be brought under control.
In many cases, construction work is being done on a limited scale through maintaining social distancing.
Awami League General Secretary and Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said: “The government has taken all steps to accelerate the construction works of mega projects.”
“The priority projects are gradually gaining speed as health safety measures of workers have already been ensured by the government,” said Quader, a key policy maker of the government.
The minister made the statement in a video message on Thursday.
According to the Finance Division, the government is set to implement 1,500 projects under the Annual Development Program (ADP) in FY2020-21. However, it has decided to suspend funding for 30% of the projects which have been marked as of less priority in order to save money.
Of the remaining 70% of projects, 30% will get high priority while 40% will get moderate priority in this year due to the pandemic.
The Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Padma Bridge Rail Link, Metro Rail, Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar Rail Link, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plan and Matarbari 1200megawatt Coal Power plant are the ones which will get the highest priority. Except the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, all these projects are backed by foreign aid.
These six projects are under the special monitoring of the taskforce for fast track projects. Only half of the total allocation of Tk30,855 crore in the revised ADP for FY2019-20 - which is Tk17,459crore - was spent until May 31 this year.
That means that work on most of the mega projects will not be accomplished according to their deadlines.
The Economic Relations Division (ERD) recently prepared a progress report which has already been sent to the Prime Minister’s Office showing the slow progress of the mega projects due to the pandemic.
Padma Multipurpose Bridge: According to the fast track progress report, Tk4,014crore was allocated in the revised ADP, but only Tk2,870 crore was spent until May, which means the amount of work that was planned to be done has not been completed yet.
The total progress of the project is 79.50%, while the progress of the main bridge is 87.50% and progress of river training is 72%.
The project is not likely to be completed within the deadline, according to the progress report.
Mohammed Belayet Hossain, secretary of the Bridges Division, told Dhaka Tribune: “Construction works have continued amid the pandemic but that was less than the expectation.”
“Now, foreigners have mostly joined work and the project is progressing gradually. But it will not be possible to complete the work by June next year. So, the deadline must be revised”, he added.
Metro Rail: The construction work of the metro rail project was suspended in March after a public holiday was announced by the government.
Though construction work resumed at the end of May, it is only visible at the depot areas. It will begin in full swing from next week when work resumes at public places between Mirpur and Motijheel.
Relevant officials said Chinese employees of the project had mostly stayed in Bangladesh during the public holiday. Besides, Japanese and Thai engineers and consultants were coming back gradually.
The government allocated Tk4,326.73 crore in the revised ADP. However, only Tk2,325.31 crore was spent until May.
Altogether 45% of the project has been completed. 68% of the construction work of the depots has been completed and 71.09% of the construction work of nine stations between Uttara North and Agargoan have been done.
Padma Bridge Rail Link Project: The project authority spent only Tk1,298 crore until May, despite the allocation being Tk3,297.4 crore. Infrastructural progress is 24.43% and financial progress is 30.52%.
Engineer Golam Fakruddin A Chawdhury, the project director, told Dhaka Tribune: “Despite construction work continuing amid the pandemic, it was slow. But now it is making progress as most of the workers have rejoined duties.”
Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar and Ramu-Gundam in Myanmar border single line dual gauge track: The government had allocated Tk1,135core in the revised ADP while Tk909 crore had been spent until May. Infrastructural progress is 39% and financial progress is 26.65%.
Nurul Islam Sujan, the Railway Minister, said the Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar Rail Link project was suspended during the public holiday, which led to snail’s progress. On the other hand, the Padma Rail Link project ran but slowly.
“Both the projects are gradually gearing up,” he told Dhaka Tribune.
Matarbari 1200 Megawatt Ultra Super Power Plant: The government allocated Tk3,225 crore in RADP, while Tk3,201crore has been spent. Infrastructural progress is 29.75% and financial progress is 33.32%.
Rooppur Nuclear Power Plan: It is the biggest project of the government in terms of funding.
The government allocated Tk14,846 crore in the revised ADP. However, only Tk7,873 crore was spent until May. Financial progress of the project is 25.04%.
Yeafesh Osman, the Minister of Science and Technology, said construction work had been progressing despite the pandemic. But now work had speeded up as employees from Russia, Germany and other countries are coming back to work.
“Around 10,000 workers, including locals and foreigners, are involved in the projects. All are working by following health guidelines,” he told Dhaka Tribune.