The novel coronavirus pandemic has halted six development projects, valued at Tk12,000 crore, in Chattogram
The construction of the six-kilometer Bayezid-Faujdarhat Bypass Road was almost complete, and the stretch was scheduled to open for traffic in March, when the Covid-19 pandemic hit.
It would have enabled traffic to reach three hill tracts districts and Cox's Bazar without entering Chattogram.
The Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) was desperate to open the bypass to slash traffic congestion in the port city before the upcoming Eid. However, it was unable to finish the Tk310 crore work on time due to the pandemic.
Not only the bypass road, but also CDA development work costing a total Tk12,000 crore has stalled in the port city Chattogram due to the virus crisis.
CDA officials said the pandemic will escalate both project costs and time. However, civil society members have said the development authority will just cash in on the virus crisis and as they were already trying to extend project expenditures and completion time prior to the pandemic.
Traffic congestion and waterlogging are the two major problems of the port city. The CDA is constructing four roads, an elevated expressway, and a drainage project to resolve the two issues. The virus outbreak has hit every single project.
"The workers left the construction sites to return home when the crisis began. Subsequently the contractors postponed their work," said CDA Chief Engineer Kazi Hasan Bin Shams.
Like the Bayezid-Faujdarhat Bypass, construction of the Chattogram Outer Ring Road is almost complete. The CDA was determined to open the Tk2,426 crore road before Eid. However, the virus outbreak has jeopardised their plan.
Construction of the access road connecting Dewan Bazar and Bakalia was also suspended. The project's deadline was extended for a second time in the wake of issues over compensation for a multi-storied building on the road alignment.
Now construction of the access road, at a cost of Tk205 crore, is in limbo again as the virus races around the country.
Construction of Kalurghat Ring Road and the embankment by the Karnaphuli river also hit a snag. The road cost Tk2,275 crore to connect Kalurghat and Chaktai. It was supposed to be completed by June this year. However, the project is not even half complete owing to land disputes.
Seventeen sluice gates were being built on the Karnaphuli embankment to prevent the adjacent areas from waterlogging during water surges. However, Chattogram is more likely to go under water in the upcoming monsoon as the pandemic has impeded the sluice gate work.
The elevated expressway project connecting the airport to the city has also stalled. A part of the project slowed down earlier as the Chittagong Port Authority protested its construction. Now the pandemic has shuttered the total project that was planned to be completed by 2022 at a cost of Tk3,250 crore.
The CDA says Chattogram dwellers will be able to commute to the airport from the city, in 30 minutes, once the project finishes.
The novel coronavirus spread also slowed down the project undertaken to resolve waterlogging in Chattogram. Locals had been complaining about the snail's pace of the project scheduled to be completed in June this year.
Twenty percent of the Tk5,616-crore-project has been completed so far and virus spread has totally shut it down since March. This means that there will be no respite from waterlogging this monsoon in Chattogram.
"Chattogram will likely suffer from intensified waterlogging this year as the water bodies that channel out rainwater have been filled with garbage. Moreover, the respective projects have yet to be finished," said Delwar Hossain Majumder, former president of the Engineers Institution Bangladesh, Chattogram Chapter.
"The six projects to minimise traffic congestion and waterlogging were undertaken according to expert opinions and each later faced numerous issues. Not a single project was completed on time," Delwar Hossain stated.
He added, "The CDA had been trying to extend project costs and deadlines and they will now cash in on the novel coronavirus crisis."
CDA Chief Engineer Kazi Hasan Bin Shams said. "Traffic jams would have decreased substantially, in Chattogram, had the bypass and ring roads opened before Eid. However, the virus spread has jeopardised everything."