Fast-Track Projects: Govt moves to speed up work amid pandemic



Amid growing concern over the slow pace of work of almost all fast track projects due to the Covid-19 outbreak, the government is working to find ways to speed up the schemes.

As part of its efforts, the Fast Track Project Monitoring Taskforce is going to meet today with the officials of the project implementation agencies, officials said.

Prime Minister’s Principal Secretary Ahmad Kaikaus, also the head of the taskforce, will preside over the virtual meeting from Prime Minister’s Office. Secretaries of different ministries and project directors concerned will join the meeting through videoconferencing, they said.

Abul Mansur Md Faizullah, secretary of the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division, said as many first track projects were running behind schedule due to the virus outbreak, they sent letters to project directors to come up with recovery plans.

“Tomorrow’s [Thursday] meeting will discuss the problems faced by the projects and how to overcome those. Some specific directives are likely to be given [to the project implementing agencies] from the meeting in this regard,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.

With most of the first-track projects already running behind schedule mainly due to uncertainty over funding, complexity over designs, planning and land acquisition, their progress was hit hard by the Covid-19 outbreak.

The number of first-track projects rose to 12 after three new projects were included and one was excluded from the list in the last meeting of Fast Track Project Monitoring Committee, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in January.

The projects are Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Metro Rail (MRT-6), Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Padma Rail Link, Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar Rail Line, Rampal Thermal Power Plant, Payra Port First Terminal, Payra port infrastructure development, Maheshkhali Matarbari integrated infrastructure development activities, MRT-1, MRT-5, and Matarbari Port Development Project.

The last three was included in the list of the first-track project. The Sonadia Deep Sea Project has been dropped from the list.

Once the projects are completed, the country’s communication and power sectors will get a huge boost, traffic congestion in Dhaka city will ease, and trade and tourism will be benefited immensely, say experts.

Studies show that the country’s GDP will increase by 3 to 4 percent after the completion of the projects.

DELAY IN PROJECTS

The long-cherished Padma Multipurpose Bridge project suffered shortages of workers, both Chinese and local, and construction materials since January after the virus broke out in China, officials said.

A project official said the project authorities are now working on a pace of 70 percent of normal. It received an allocation of Tk 5,370 crore from the outgoing Annual Development Programme (ADP), but officials could spend Tk 2,140 core as of February.

Bridges Division Secretary Belayet Hossain yesterday said, “We have returned Tk 1,700 crore from the ADP allocation. The current deadline of the project is going to be deferred by six months as the work has been disrupted by Covid-19.”

After several deferrals, the current deadline of the project is June 2021. The overall progress of the project was 79.50 percent as of May this year, according to project documents.

Another important first track project is the construction of a single-line dual-gauge railway track from Dohazari to Cox’s Bazar via Ramu. It will bring the country’s popular tourist destination under railway network. The long-drawn project has also been facing obstacles since the Covid-19 pandemic began due to a lack of workers, officials said.

Project Director Mofizur Rahman said they had a plan to complete 50 percent physical work of the project within the current fiscal year, but the progress reached 40 percent as of now.

The physical work of the project came to a near-halt after March, he said, adding that although most of the workers have returned to the project site, rain was creating obstacles.

“We are hopeful about recovering the delay if the virus situation returns to normal. But if the situation prolongs, it may not be possible for us to recover the delay within the deadline,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.

Meanwhile, the MRT-6 project has witnessed 44.67 percent physical progress till last month, Padma Rail Link 24.43 percent, Rampal Thermal Power Plant 48.93 percent, Payra Port First Terminal 0.82 percent, and the Payra port infrastructure development has seen 66.25 percent physical progress.

The 2,400 MW Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, the largest single project worth Tk 113,092 crore, saw 25.04 percent financial progress till last month. The deadline of the project is December 2025.

The MRT-6 project, under which an elevated metro rail link from Uttara to Motijheel in the capital is under construction, suffered delays after the government had enforced shutdown in March to curb the spread of Covid-19.

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

Talking to this newspaper early this month, Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd Managing Director MAN Siddique said, “Yes, we are lagging behind the schedule.”

The company would speed up the work while maintaining health safety guidelines, he added.

 

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