The government's initiative to establish one of the biggest river ports in northern region at Nagarbari in Pabna's Bera upazila has delayed for one year while the project cost has already exceeded Tk 40 crore.
The ministry of shipping through the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) launched the mega project titled "Establishment of port facility at Nagarbari' at a cost of Tk 513.09 crore in July 2018 targeting to finish the project work within June 2021.
After two and half years of the first scheduled time, just 25 percent of the mega project has been completed while major works could not be started.
As a result, the project deadline has been extended till June 2022, according to the official sources of BIWTA.
Slow progress of land acquisition has allegedly caused the delay of the project work, they said.
"We have acquired 36 acres of private land beside the Jamuna river at Nagarbari for the establishment of Nagarbari river port with modern technology. We got the handover of the acquired land last month after two and half years of starting the project work," Nazim Uddin Pathan, executive engineer of Nagarbari port establishment project, said.
"We could not acquire the land according to the previous rate of the project, needed Tk 20 crore extra for the land acquisition," Nazim said.
"Tk 69 crore was supposed for the land acquisition of the under construction Nagarbari port when the Ecnec approved the project earlier. When we went for construction work, we could not complete the necessary land acquisition with this amount. After approval of the different ministries, we have paid a total of Tk 89.17 crore to the district administration for the land acquisition," he said.
Munni Islam, executive magistrate and also the land acquisition officer of Pabna, however, claimed that the district administration has handed over the acquired land to the BIWTA last month (first week of January, this year) after paying requisite land acquisition money.
No excessive amount was needed for land acquisition, she added.
"Land acquisition for Nagarbari port has been done following land acquisition rule. The price of the land has been fixed according to the market rate, no excessive price for land was needed." Munni said denying to make any comment on the delay of land acquisition.
The land acquisition cost has increased Tk 20 crore while the project cost has increased Tk 40 crore for the delay of the construction work of the much-talked Nagarbari river port construction, according to the BIWTA official sources.
Visiting the construction site of Nagarbari port a couple of days ago, it was found that the construction work of port office and other official accommodation was in progress and the river bank was being protected with concrete but most of the work in the vast port yard was yet to start.
"We have already issued three work orders for construction work of the office establishments and river bank protection work and RCC Jetty construction while tendering for seven other works for the development of port yard is underway," Najim Uddin Pathan said, adding that only 25 percent of the total work has been completed till now.
Meanwhile, businessmen of the Nagarbari port said the Nagarbari port is the most potential river ports of the northern region due to the easy transportation of imported goods to the northern districts from the port.
Almost all of the importers of fertilizer, food grains, coal, clinker and such other materials use Nagarbari ghat for easy transportation, Md Rafik Ullah, president of Nagarbari ghat traders' association, said.
Construction work of Nagarbari port will bring smile to the businessmen in this region but the slow progress of the project now brings disappointment, he added.
BIWTA, however, claimed the construction of Nagarbari port will be finished according to the new time schedule.
"We have already overcome the major crises of land acquisition and fund allotment. Now the project work is progressing smoothly and we hope to finish the work within the extended time." BIWTA executive engineer Nazimuddin Pathan said.