Fast-track projects to continue even in lockdown
- Padma bridge project site has been locked down
- Improved beds, oxygen supply have been made available for workers
- Four full-time doctors, nurses have been appointed
- Metrorail authorities prepared seven-day action plan during lockdown
- 7,000 workers now engaged in the project
- All are working complying with hygiene rules
- Dohazari-Cox's Bazar rail line project has remained stuck in land acquisition
- Implementation of fast-track projects is expected to add 2% to GDP
The government will continue work on fast-track projects as much as possible even in the lockdown scheduled to begin on 14 April.
The first-track project monitoring taskforce, headed by the principal secretary to the Prime Minister's Office, on Sunday in a meeting reached this decision.
"We will implement fast-track projects amid Covid-19 to keep up their progress, but all have to strictly abide by health safety guidelines," Mostafizur Rahman, additional secretary to the Economic Relations Division (ERD), told The Business Standard.
They will execute the work that is possible during the lockdown, Mostafizur said.
The ERD has been assigned to provide secretarial support to the taskforce at the PMO.
According to sources, more than half of the allocation under the Annual Development Programme (ADP) is usually spent in the last three months of a fiscal year. If expenses on fast-track projects do not happen as per the target during this time, their implementation will fall far behind. That is why the government is giving much importance to implementing the priority projects towards the end of the current fiscal year even at this pandemic time.
The implementation of the fast-track projects is expected to add 2% to the country's GDP.
In 2020, the Covid-19 hit and subsequent countrywide shutdown put a stumbling block on the implementation of all development projects, including fast-track ones. At that time, their implementation remained stalled as foreign consultants and experts engaged in various projects were not present in project areas. Later, when the pandemic situation improved, project implementation picked up pace to some extent.
But the government again announced a lockdown from 5 April with infections keeping on surging. And, a tougher lockdown will be enforced from April 14.
However, various steps have been taken to continue projects work even in the Covid situation, according to project sources.
According to sources at the bridges division, it is a big challenge to continue work on the Padma bridge at an expected pace amid Covid-19. The project authorities are very careful about local and foreign consultants and Chinese technicians working on the bridge to save them from Covid-19 infections. The entire bridge project area has been locked down.
Besides, all healthcare facilities, including improved beds, oxygen supply, have been made available for them. Four full-time doctors and nurses have been recruited and their full-time presence has been ensured. All local and most foreign engineers have been stationed in the project area and work has continued.
Shafiqul Islam, director of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge project, told TBS that the project area has already been locked down to continue its implementation work amid the second wave of Covid-19. Even then, work on the bridge is running slowly as 20% of Chinese experts are not available in the project area.
"Nevertheless, we expect to spend the entire fund allocated in the current fiscal year for the project," he added.
The target had been set to spend Tk5,000 crore on the Padma Bridge project in the current financial year. But halfway into the year, the allocation was slashed to Tk2,099 crore. As of March, 65.65% or Tk1,378.61 crore of the revised ADP has been expended on the project.
On the other hand, the Padma rail link project has witnessed an 80% spending from its allocation for the current fiscal year.
The Dohazari-Cox's Bazar rail line project has remained stuck in land acquisition for around 10 years. As of March this year, it has made only 54% physical progress. The project's allocation has reduced by Tk510 crore and stood at Tk990 crore in the revised ADP for the current fiscal year.
Md Aftabuddin Talukder, director of the Metrorail (Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit-MRT-6), said they have already prepared a seven-day action plan to continue work on the project in the lockdown starting from 14 April.
Besides, initiatives have been taken to enhance health services in the pandemic situation. There are two 14-bed hospitals under the project. If necessary, the number of beds will be further increased.
He said there are now 7,000 workers now engaged in the project and all are working complying with hygiene rules.
Some Tk5,543 crore has been allocated for the metrorail in the revised ADP for the current fiscal year. But only 33% of its allocation or Tk1830.60 crore has so far been spent.
Meanwhile, only 54.55% or Tk5,545.98 crore of the revised ADP allocation has been spent on the Rooppur nuclear power project till March this year.
As of March, only 23% or Tk118 crore has been spent on the Payra port infrastructure development project.
In the current fiscal year's ADP, the allocation for this project was Tk504 crore. Later, the allocation in the revised ADP was increased to Tk651.6 crore.
The report of the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) said the implementation of the project is being hampered because of land acquisition. The acquisition of 50% of land has not been possible yet.
The allocation for the Matarbari coal power plant project has risen to Tk4200 crore, with a 528 crore increase from the original ADP.
The 1200MW Matarbari coal-fired power plant project has witnessed only a 42% expense from its allocation amounting to Tk4200 crore in the revised ADP till February. The cumulative physical progress of the project is 40%.
Only Tk1,105 crore has been spent till March on the 1,320MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Project against the target of Tk3,172 crore for the current financial year.