The Bridges Division says it may take more than a year to open the Padma Bridge to traffic after installing sleepers
Only 19.75% of the allocation for the government's fast-track projects has been spent in the first five months (July-November) of the current financial year, according to the latest report of the Economic Relations Division (ERD).
Except for the Padma Rail Link and Matarbari 1,200MW Ultra Super Critical Power Station, the implementation progress of such projects is not satisfactory.
Sixty percent of the allocation for the Padma Rail Link project, which received the highest allocation, was spent during this period while it was 42% for the Matarbari Power Plant project.
Moreover, less than 20% of allocation for the Padma Bridge, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit (MRT), and Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant in Rampal was spent in this period.
Project officials said the progress of many projects was poor as foreign workers, experts and consultants had not yet returned due to the novel coronavirus pandemic.
Although all Padma Bridge spans have been installed, there is work that has not been finished yet due to the pandemic. That is why the government has backed away from its plan to open the bridge for traffic on the golden jubilee of independence next year.
However, the government wants to launch the country's first metro rail (MRT-6) within that period.
Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty, secretary to the Planning Commission's Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Department (IMED), said fast-track projects are being implemented at the desired pace.
Although financial progress was slow in the first five months of the current fiscal year, physical progress increased in this period, he said.
"Many contractors' bills have not been paid yet. It takes time to pay bills as you have to do that after assessments. That is why financial progress was slow," said Pradip.
But according to the ERD report, not only financial progress but physical progress of fast-track projects was slow as well.
Only 6% of the metro rail project allocation was spent in the first three months of this fiscal year. During that period, the project's physical progress was shown as 53.37%.
Five months later, calculations revealed that physical progress was even less (52.24%) although about 12% of the allocation was spent in that period.
Padma Bridge project to be extended by a year
Although the Padma Bridge is now 100% visible after the last span was installed a few days ago, the Bridges Division said it could take more than a year to open the bridge to traffic after installing sleepers.
According to the ERD, the project was allocated Tk5,000 crore in the current financial year but only 11% of the amount (Tk552 crore) was spent till November. Till that month, progress of the main bridge was 91% while 76% of river governance was done.
Padma Bridge Project Director Md Shafiqul Islam said project expenditure is usually low during the monsoon.
"River governance in particular cannot be carried out at that time. However, expenditure will rise during the rest of the financial year," he added.
Meanwhile, the Bridges Division has started preparing to extend the project tenure even though work is scheduled to be completed in June next year.
Its officials said the tenure would be extended till June 2022.
Padma Bridge Rail Link project progressing fast
In the first three months of the current fiscal year, 15.71% of the Padma Bridge Rail Link project allocation was spent. Expenditure increased to 60.24% in the first five months, according to Bangladesh Railway's progress report.
The railway wants an additional allocation of Tk1,801 crore for the last six months of the current fiscal year as the project is being implemented at the maximum pace.
The government plans to open the Mawa-Bhanga portion of the rail route connecting Dhaka to Jashore through the bridge on the very day of the mega structure's inauguration. The railway is on track to achieve this target.
Metro rail opening planned as per schedule
Despite the announcement to open part of the metro rail (MRT-6) from Uttara to Motijheel on the golden jubilee of independence, the project's implementation is progressing at a snail's pace. This has raised doubts about completion of work according to the announcement.
However, the government wants to open the rail line as per the schedule.
The project was allocated Tk5,543 crore in the first five months of the current financial year and Tk642 crore was spent.
Requesting anonymity, a senior official at Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Company said none of the Japanese consultants had returned yet because of the pandemic, and this had slowed down work.
"Although many precautionary measures were taken, many consultants have not returned yet," he added.
Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant's physical progress 32%
In the current financial year, the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant project was allocated Tk15,691 crore. Of this, only 11% (Tk1,659 crore) was spent in the first five months.
Although the most expensive project in the country's history is targeted to be completed by 2025, its physical progress is 32% so far.
Project Director Dr Mohammad Shawkat Akbar said progress had not slowed down but was being shown as low as the use of foreign loans had not been calculated yet.
Matarbari Plant project sees the most progress
Among the fast-track projects, the Matarbari Plant saw the maximum amount of progress in the first five months of the current financial year. At least 30% of the project allocation was spent in the first three months and it increased to 42% in five months.
However, overall progress of the project, which started in 2014, is still far behind the target. Physical work progress was only 40% till November.
Only 19% of the total allocation for the 1,320MW Maitree Super Thermal Power Plant project in Rampal was spent in the first five months of the current fiscal year. Physical work progress of the project, which started in 2009, is 45% so far.
The project is being implemented by the Bangladesh India Friendship Power Company through a joint venture of the Bangladesh Power Development Board and India's National Thermal Power Company.
Even in 10 years, land acquisition complexities of the Dohazari-Cox's Bazar railway line construction project were not resolved. This has slowed down the project's implementation.
Although Tk1,500 crore was allocated for the project in the current financial year, only Tk222 crore was spent till November.
The project director said there would be no progress if land acquisition difficulties were not resolved.
The problem has not been resolved even though various initiatives have been taken, he added.
Of the Tk300 crore allocation for Payra Deep Sea Port infrastructure development project, only Tk75 crore was spent in the first five months of the current fiscal year.
The progress of another project taken up to construct the first terminal at the port is about 39% in the current financial year.