The Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) – the project implementing agency – is in crisis over completing the construction of the central effluent treatment plant (CETP) at the Tannery Industrial Estate in Savar.
Chinese contractor JLEPCL-DCL JV has not completed the work even after receiving 11 time extensions.
The last extension expired on 30 December and the company once again has asked for three more months till March 31 to complete the work.
In this situation, the liquid waste of the tannery village cannot be treated properly and thus the water of the River Dhaleshwari is being polluted.
Tannery owners are also dissatisfied with the waste management.
Shaheen Ahmed, president of the Bangladesh Tanners' Association (BTA), said that the delay in CETP construction is negatively impacting the tannery industry.
He called upon the authorities concerned to work quickly without wasting any more time.
On 11 March, 2012, the tender was awarded to JLEPCL-DCL JV through an international tender to build the CETP within two years.
The project cost was estimated at Tk477.46 crore, the construction time was 18 months and the commissioning and stabilisation time was another six months.
In 2003, the BSCIC undertook the project to build the Tannery Industrial Estate to relocate all the tanneries in Hazaribagh to Hemayetpur, Savar to save the River Buriganga from tannery waste contamination.
In 2017, all the Hazaribagh tanneries were shifted to Savar on the outskirts of the capital before the project was completed.
Jitendra Nath Paul, project director of the tannery village, told The Business Standard, "We are in a crisis over the delay in setting up the CETP. The contractor has not completed the work even though the time was extended many times before."
"The contractor has sought a time extension for a 12th time, saying that technicians could not arrive due to the Covid-19 pandemic. We have forwarded it to the industries ministry. No decision has been made yet to extend the time," he added.
Noting that the contract with the company cannot be cancelled, he said that if the contract is scrapped, a new tender will have to be called, which is a very time-consuming process.
The contractor has also been informed about BSCIC's dissatisfaction with the repeated time extensions.
Currently, a trial run of four modules of the CETP is going on. When the work is completed, the CETP is expected to be able to treat 25,000 cubic metres of liquid waste every day.
In the first phase, the implementation period of the project was extended till 6 January, 2014. Then the time was extended by 10 months in the second phase, eight months in the third phase, and six months in each from the fourth to seventh phases.
The time was extended by three months in each of the eighth and ninth phases. In the tenth phase, the time was extended by 10 months.
The deadline was extended till 30 December in response to the eleventh application of the contractor to extend the time.
In the twelfth application sent to the project director, the Chinese contractor said, "The remaining work could not be finished before the deadline due to the dearth of Chinese technicians and skilled workers."
"A requisite number of Chinese skilled workforce must be engaged – to put the finishing touches on the long-cherished project – [including] notable automation engineers, professional laboratory technicians and lecturers dedicated to holding workshops plus seminars as well as offering specialised hands-on training to BSCIC officials," he added.
"In order to finish the project, we need to import the goods from China but we could not open an LC," read the application.
With the Chinese spring festival in February of 2021, Chinese nationals are reluctant to come to Bangladesh before that festive occasion because they are waiting to be reunited with their nearest and dearest ones to celebrate this traditional festival of utmost significance, the application further said.