Coronavirus Impact: Mega projects take the brunt | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, June 06, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 01:15 AM, June 06, 2020

Coronavirus Impact: Mega projects take the brunt

Most of them running behind schedule, slow down further due to shutdown; allocation in next budget to be less than last year’s outlay

Most of the mega development projects were already behind schedule before the pandemic. Then came several months of shutdown, deteriorating the situation to a great extent.

Moreover, allocation for the projects will be low in the coming fiscal year with 21.76 percent of the annual development budget, down from the current year's 25 percent. 

This has happened despite two new mega development projects being added to the 15 ongoing ones. 

The coming fiscal year's allocation will be Tk 44,640 crore for the 17 projects, down from this year's Tk 52,758 crore for 15.

The coming year's total development budget will be Tk 205,145 crore.

Officials failed to use the funds allocated in the current year for most of the 15 mega projects. And due to complications regarding foreign funds, absolutely nothing was spent for two of those projects, planning ministry officials said.

Poor planning, uncertainty over financing, and problems linked to land acquisition often result in missed deadlines, they said.

Tk 7,212 crore was allocated for Mass Rapid Transit-6 in last year's Annual Development Programme (ADP). It was the second highest amount for a single project. In the revised ADP, the project was allocated Tk 4,326 crore.

However, project officials were able to utilise only Tk 1,170 crore as of last February. In late March when the government enforced the shutdown to contain the spread of the coronavirus, physical work for the metro rail project almost completely stopped.

According to project documents, the work progressed by only 0.55 percent in the last two months and reached an overall 44.67 percent progress as of May.

Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd (DMTCL) is constructing the elevated metro lines from Uttara 3rd Phase to Motijheel at a cost of around Tk 22,000 crore. Once completed, about 60,000 people will travel each hour using the lines.

DMTCL Managing Director MAN Siddique said, "Yes... we are lagging behind."

But the company will now accelerate the work while maintaining the health safety guidelines, he told The Daily Star.

Siddique, however, added that the actual physical work progress was more than what was mentioned in the project document. 

The government is going to allocate Tk 4,370 crore for the project in the coming year.

Another high-priority mega project is the Padma Multipurpose Bridge. It got Tk 5,370 crore from the current ADP, but officials spent Tk 2,140 core as of February.

Since the shutdown was enforced, the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project suffered shortages of workers -- both Chinese and locals -- and construction material, officials said.

Dewan Abdul Kader, project manager (main bridge), said they were working with 70 percent of the total local employees and all of the Chinese nationals were working.

"We are hopeful about resuming full-fledged work in two weeks. Most of the local workers have returned to the construction site after the Eid. But they were in the 14-day quarantine," Kader told The Daily Star on May 30.

The project is likely to miss its current deadline in June 2021 and exceed it's budget, Bridge Division Secretary Belayet Hossain said early last month.

"At least six additional months would be needed. If the Covid-19 situation does not improve, it may take even longer," he said.

The overall progress of the project was 79 percent as of April this year and it will get Tk 5,000 crore in the next fiscal year.

Another first track project is the construction of a single-line dual-gauge Railway Track from Dohazari to Cox's Bazar via Ramu. The long-drawn project also faces obstacles for lack of workers -- both Chinese and locals -- officials involved said.

Project director Mofizur Rahman said they have resumed work before the Eid and the number of workers was increasing gradually. "Most of the workers will start working from next week," he told The Daily Star.

"However, it's not possible to say now whether this problem would affect the deadline of the project."

Although the project was supposed to be implemented between July 2010 and June 2022, physical work from Dohazari to Ramu started in March 2018.

The project could spend TK 631 crore as of February, out of Tk 1,135 crore. It would get Tk 1,500 crore in the coming year.

Among other mega projects, Rooppur nuclear power plant will get the highest Tk 15,691 crore, Matarbari coal power plant Tk 3,670 crore, Karnaphuli river tunnel Tk 1,550 crore, Dhaka-Ashulia elevated expressway Tk 755 crore, Padma Rail Link Tk 3,684 crore and Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport expansion (first phase) Tk 2,900 crore in the next ADP.

Besides, installation of a single point mooring with double pipelines would get Tk 752 crore, Payra port infrastructure development TK 350 crore, Payra port first terminal Tk 350 crore, Rooppur Power Evacuation Line Tk 585 crore and Kuril-Purbachal Canal TK 1,316 crore.

Three other mega projects would get allocation from ADP for the first time from next fiscal year. They are: Mass Rapid Transit (metro rail)-5 Tk 1,300, Mass Rapid Transit (metro rail)-1 Tk 791 crore and Matarbari Port Development project Tk 76 crore.

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