Less than 8% of the allocation for the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project was spent in the first quarter of the current fiscal year, though much of the physical work of the bridge is visible by now.
The progress of work of the metro-rail project in Dhaka city has been slow although enough money has been kept aside for the priority project to make sure the flagship transport infrastructure opens for public on the 50th Victory Day.
This is the situation of the fast-track projects whose work resumed after three-months closure caused by Covid-19 outbreak but have not yet gained the desired pace.
Authorities said prolonged absence of foreign consultants and employees due to pandemic was the main reason behind the slow pace of top priority infrastructure projects, making their timely implementation uncertain.
Despite resumption of work after a few months of suspension due to the pandemic, the government's high priority fast-track projects are still to pick up enough speed as most foreign experts and consultants – stay stranded in their respective countries.
According to a report, prepared by the Economic Relations Department (ERD), project works remained suspended for a long time mainly due to the pandemic. The report on the progress of eight fast-track projects in the first quarter (July-September) of the ongoing fiscal year was forwarded to the Prime Minister's Office on 7 October.
To accelerate economic activities and increase growth, the government identifies some priority projects as fast-track ones and closely monitors their implementation for faster completion.
The allocation for the eight fast-track projects in the fiscal 2020-21 is Tk42,433 crore. As of September, around 9% or Tk3,835 crore has been spent on the projects from the allocation.
Pradip Ranjan Chakraborty, secretary to the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), said the fast-track projects have not yet picked up expected pace due to Covid-19 effects. The IMED has already met with the implementing agencies to decide what to do in this regard.
Weather also holds back Padma Bridge work
Bad weather conditions have dealt another blow to the construction of the Padma Bridge which is already reeling under the pandemic shocks.
The ERD report says, in the first quarter, the Bridges Division spent only 7.48% of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project's allocation amounting to Tk5,000 crore earmarked for the fiscal year, with the physical progress being 81.5%. Construction of the main bridge has made a progress of 90% while 74.50% of river training work has been completed.
Padma Bridge Project Director Shafiqul Islam said work on the Padma Bridge has not got the expected pace due to high water and current in the river during the monsoon season. Covid-19 still remains a stumbling block, he said.
Besides, the project work is not getting back momentum as one-third of the foreign workers are still stranded in China. However, work is underway to install two to three more spans this month, even with the limited number of manpower.
The 32nd span of the total 41 spans of the bridge was installed on 11 October, thus making 4,800 metres of the much-awaited bridge visible.
However, officials at the Bridges Division think that it will not be possible to complete the construction of the Padma Bridge within the expected time.
Although the work is scheduled to be completed by June 2021, its deadline may be extended to 2022, they added.
Padma rail link expected to get back pace
There was not much progress in the implementation of the Padma Bridge rail link project in the last fiscal year owing to complexities over loan agreement and Covid-19.
Bangladesh Railway hopes that the project implementation will be expedited in the current financial year.
The project is being implemented on a government-to-government (G2G) basis with funding from the Chinese government. The ERD report said the project was revised as its progress on spending was not as expected because of complications over land acquisition and its design remaining unfinished.
In the first three months of the current fiscal year, the project has witnessed a 15.71% expense from its allocation of Tk2500 crore fixed for the current fiscal year.
The project's physical progress is around 26%. However, railway officials said they cannot restart work in full swing in the absence of many Chinese workers who have not yet returned to work.
Uncertainty over opening metro rail on time
The first phase of the metro rail project (Uttara-Motijheel) has been targeted to be inaugurated on December 16, 2021 – the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's independence.
But its work has not made the expected progress in the first three months of the current fiscal year, putting in doubt the much-hyped project's inauguration within the deadline.
Only 6% of Tk5,583 crore allocated for the current fiscal year was spent on the project in the first quarter.
Seeking anonymity, an official at the Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd (DMTCL), which is implementing the project, said the metro rail work resumed after a temporary shutdown, but it will take more time for normal pace to come back as many Japanese experts and consultants have not returned to Bangladesh yet.
The Japanese officials have been assured of all possible health safety measures. Hopefully, they will come to Bangladesh soon and join their work, he added.
MAN Siddique, managing director at the DMTCL, told The Business Standard, "We are working for the timely implementation of the Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line -6, complying with health guidelines and maintaining social distancing."
"We are still hopeful of finishing its work on time," he added.
There is a possibility of the second wave of Covid-19 breaking out this winter. If something like that happens, the work may not be completed within the announced time, MAN Siddique also said.
According to the ERD report, the overall progress of the metro rail is 53.37%.
Lowest progress in Rooppur nuclear project
The Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, the country's largest project in terms of cost, has made the least progress if spending from its allocated fund in the first three months of the fiscal year is considered. The project authorities could spend only 4.58% from Tk15,991 crore during the period.
The Tk1,13,093 crore project is expected to be implemented by 2025.
The overall progress of the project has been 28.7% till now. The units of the nuclear power plant will generate 1,200 megawatts each once they go into operation.
Project Director Dr Shaukat Akbar claimed the project work has not slowed down. The low progress is shown as the amount of foreign loans has not been calculated yet. This calculation will be done from October.
Rampal power plant sees slow progress in absence of foreign workers
According to the progress report for the fast-track projects, the Rampal power plant project saw only 5.8% spending in the first quarter from Tk4,487 crore in allocation for the fiscal year.
The project, which began in 2009, has not even made half of the physical progress yet.
Project officials said Indian and Bangladeshi workers cannot join work because of Covid-19. Workers from both countries are expected to join work in November. Then, the work will pick up pace and the slack will be made up.
Slow pace of Dohazari-Cox's Bazar-Gundum rail line construction
Only 10.37% of the Dohazari-Cox's Bazar-Gundum rail line construction project has been spent in the first three months of the fiscal year. The project's overall physical progress has been 43%, according to the ERD report.
From the beginning, the project had suffered some complexities in land acquisition. Now the pandemic has slowed its implementation too, said project officials.
Matarbari power project sees good progress
The Matarbari coal-fired power plant is the only fast track project that has made good progress with 30% of this fiscal year's allocation having been spent till September.
But, the progress in the project implementation is much lower than planned.
Meanwhile, the Payra deep seaport, another fast-track project, saw spending of only 0.03% from its allocation set for the current fiscal year. However, 41% of the total allocation for the construction of the first terminal of the port has been spent in the first three months.