It has been five years since the Japan-funded Matarbari 1,200 megawatt coal power plant project near Maheshkhali took off, but any full-time project director is yet to be assigned.
In the absence of much-needed supervision, the project is moving at a snail's pace, according to a recent report of the Implementation, Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) of the planning ministry.
Meanwhile, Golam Kibria, managing director of state-owned Coal Power Generation Company Bangladesh Limited (CPGCBL), has been serving the duties of project director, in addition to his existing responsibility.
Apart from the Matarbari project, the CPGCBL has started groundwork of five other power projects with a production capacity of 4,300 megawatts.
Of these, survey and land acquisition of three projects have been completed. The process of appointing experts to measure the environmental and social impacts of the projects is ongoing.
Despite such work pressure, the CPGCBL managing director has to stay in Dhaka most of the time. As a result, he hardly makes it to Cox's Bazar to supervise the Matarbari project.
During a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) in April, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina instructed different project directors to supervise their projects directly.
However, the planning ministry officials said she has been giving such instructions for the last few years, but to no avail.
Golam has been serving his duties since July. The Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) Chairman Khaled Mahmood preceded him.
Before that, from the beginning of the project until April 2018, former managing director of the CPGCBL Abul Kashem was the project director.
Planning ministry has been asking different ministries and divisions to appoint full-time project directors but to no avail.
This correspondent tried to reach the CPGCBL Managing Director Golam, also the project director of Matarbari, but he could not be reached.
However, the CPGCBL Secretary Mizanur Rahman said a coal-fired power plant has its speciality. So, the CPGCBL managing director is the right person to carry out its responsibilities, Mizanur said, adding that two officials have been appointed to assist the managing director.
Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, secretary of Power Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, said only one project being run under the CPGCBL.
Taking into consideration the size of the project, the managing director has been tasked with the responsibility of the project director, he said, adding that IMED should not have questioned the rationality of the purpose.
Ahmad also opposed the idea that a project director has to be stationed on the project site to supervise the project. A project director can supervise the project from Dhaka, he said.
Planning Minister MA Mannan told The Business Standard that 1200 megawatt Matarbari coal-fired power project was included among the fast-track projects.
When the chief of an organisation becomes its project director, it creates hindrance to project implementation, Mannan commented.
Moreover, if the managing director becomes project director, his accountability cannot be ensured, Mannan said, adding that he would take necessary measures after talking to the state minister for power, energy and mineral resources.
Mannan himself is taking care of the allegations that chiefs of different bodies are holding the positions of project directors, said the ministry officials.
As per the IMED report, in the absence of supervision, the issues involving the land acquisition of Matarbari project are yet to be resolved. Moreover, the landowners are being harassed when they are demanding compensation.
The deputy commissioner's office is giving cheques to the affected landowners, after scrutiny. But the NGOs, tasked with listing the affected people, are taking too much time.
Many affected landowners are yet to get their proper compensation, though one year has elapsed.
But Hasina instructed to ensure that people, who get affected by land acquisition, are properly compensated and not harassed.
To establish the power plant, around 1,500 acres of land has been acquired in Maheshkhali and Dhalghat unions, said the sources.
As the land development works are yet to be completed, the process of buying the much-needed equipment for the project has not been initiated. So far, only 18.67 percent work has been completed until August. Therefore, the IMED report said the project is not moving the way as it should be.
The objective of the project is to meet the growing electricity demand and to improve stable power supply by installing the 1,200-megawatt Ultra Super Critical Coal-Fired Power Plant at Matarbari of Cox's Bazar district's Maheshkhali upazila.
Ecnec approved the project on August 12, 2014, with the implementation period of July 2014-June 2024 and total cost of Tk35,984 crore.
The Japan International Cooperation Agency will provide Tk28,939.03 crore of the total project cost as official development assistance loans in different phases.
For quick implementation, the government has included 10 megaprojects as fast-tract projects.
The projects are Padma Bridge, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Rampal Coal-fired Power Plant, Sonadia Deep Sea Port, Dhaka Mass Rapid Development Transit Project, Moheshkhali LNG Terminal, Moheshkhali-Matarbari Integrated Infrastructure Development Project, Payra Sea Port, Padma Bridge Rail Link and construction of Rail track between Chattogram with Cox's Bazar.