The project to construct a 77-kilometer power transmission line – that would provide reliable power to Chattogram city – was undertaken with an estimated 4.5-year completion period, but seven years on, it has yet to be finished.
Meanwhile, the project cost has increased by 300% to Tk980 crore from the initial estimation of Tk245 crore. The deadline has been extended twice so far, with another extension in the offing.
Further, a part of the project that holds 24 kilometers of transmission line was cancelled after seven years. As a result, the cost per kilometre of line construction has now gone up to Tk18.49 crore from the initial average estimation of Tk3.18 crore.
The project was undertaken in 2013 under Package 6 of the National Power Transmission Network Development (NPTND) project of the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB). The NPTND project comprises 10 packages.
The 77-kilometer line project includes the construction of a 45-kilometer Hathazari-Shikalbaha-Anwara line, 24-kilometer Hathazari-Rampur overhead line and eight-kilometer underground line on the same route.
When asked why the project cost had escalated despite the cancellation of 24 kilometers of line, the PGCB authorities said it was due to the changes in the work scope in the revised document of the project proposal.
"In the initial proposal, there were only two conductors on the Hathazari-Shikalbaha line. But we had to construct four to develop double the capacity to carry power from the upcoming plants in the region," said Golam Kibria, managing director of PGCB.
A Japanese consortium of Fujikura, Itochu Corporation and LS Cable & System was awarded the project financed by Japan International Cooperation Agency.
Just a month before the project deadline ended on 4 May, 2017, it was extended by two more years to June 2019.
However, almost a year and a half after that decision was made, on 4 November, 2018, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the NPTND project's revised proposal and extended its deadline again till December 2020.
Now, the Power Division is going to extend the deadline for another six months considering the contractor's request.
The PGCB managing director told The Business Standard, "There are many reasons for the extension, including the Covid-19 pandemic. Due to the global health crisis, the Japanese government is not allowing its citizens to go abroad. Therefore, the project cannot be completed as per the second deadline."
24 kilometers of line cancelled after seven years
Besides the high escalation of the project cost, the PGCB and contractor cancelled the 24 kilometer Hathazari-Rampur transmission line.
If the line does not exist, two substations in Rampur and Agrabad, which were built by linking them with the line, will remain unused.
The PGCB finalised the decision to cancel the line as per recommendations from the Ministry of Planning and the Power Division on July 30, 2020.
Kibria said the line will not be constructed due to security issues as it goes over the Bangladesh Navy's infrastructure.
"The line was cancelled after an objection raised by the Bangladesh Navy. However, we will propose an alternative route very soon," he said.
He did not reply when asked why they were cancelling the line seven years after the project had started and whether they had conducted a feasibility study before the project's undertaking.