The implementing agencies of most fast-track projects have failed to meet yearly deadlines from the very beginning. This shutdown has put those in uncertainty over their timely implementation
The countrywide shutdown has dealt quite a blow to fast-track projects that have been maintaining a trend of slow implementation since their inception at different times.
Work on all projects, including priority ones, has slowed down to a great extent since March in the absence of an adequate number of Chinese staff who remained stranded in their country amid the coronavirus pandemic.
Later, when the government enforced a countrywide shutdown to stem the spread of Covid-19, all project works came to a halt.
The implementing agencies of most fast-track projects have failed to meet yearly deadlines from the very beginning. This shutdown has put those in uncertainty over their timely implementation.
Some of the projects have already experienced cost escalations and gone through deadline extensions.
The Padma bridge project began in July 2007 at an estimated cost of Tk10,162 crore and was supposed to be completed by August 2015. But work on it began after a long delay in 2014.
The project cost went up several times, finally reaching Tk30,193 crore.
After four extensions to its tenure, the project is now expected to be implemented by June 2021.
However, the current coronavirus situation may further delay the Padma Bridge's work completion, said an official at the Bridges Division, seeking anonymity.
Some 27 out of 41 spans have so far been installed on the Padma Bridge. But the authorities cannot install more in the absence of Chinese experts.
Bridges Division officials said about one-third of the Chinese workers of the project could not rejoin their work as they were not allowed to leave their country amid the coronavirus outbreak.
Project Director Shafiqul Islam said work on the Padma Bridge had not been carried out as per the plan in recent times in the absence of Chinese experts. The implementation speed has dropped greatly.
The Padma Bridge is the government's highest priority fast-track project. Like this one, work on most fast-track projects has remained stopped because of coronavirus.
The Bridges Division spent 70.66 percent of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project's total budget by December 2019, with overall progress being 76.5 percent.
Three months (January-March 2020) later, its total expenditure stood at Tk21, 957.77 crore, which was 72.72 percent of the total budget. Overall physical progress stood at 78.50 percent till March 2020.
Until March, the main bridge construction saw progress to the extent of 86.75 percent
During these three months, progress has been only 2 percent due to the coronavirus outbreak, according to sources at the Bridges Division.
The government wants to inaugurate the metrorail (Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit-MRT-6) from Uttara to Motijheel by December 16, 2021, the year marking the golden jubilee of Bangladesh's emergence as an independent nation.
But it may not be possible amid the worldwide coronavirus situation, said officials concerned.
From July 2012, the year when the project began, to last February, total physical progress was only 42.38 percent due to slow implementation.
Many workers have left their workplace amid coronavirus worries.
The project area of the Mass Rapid Transport Line-6 (MRT-6) under the Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd has been very quiet. There is not much construction being done. Some Ansar members, security guards and regular workers are present at different points of the project area.
The project authorities had set a target of utilising Tk7212.63 crore this fiscal year under the Annual Development Programme (ADP).
But they could spend only Tk1,689.91 crore till February, according to the implementing agency, Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Company Limited.
Abul Mansur Md Faizullah, secretary to The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED), told The Business Standard that most development project works have remained stopped from March, including fast-track projects.
The Dohazari-Cox's Bazar-Gundum rail line construction project started in 2010. And the target was to complete the work by June 2013.
From the beginning, the project has suffered some complexities in land acquisition. Now the coronavirus outbreak has slowed its implementation too. The physical progress of the project was 40 percent until March.
The project's tenure has been extended to June 2022.
Project Director Md Mofizur Rahman said all kinds of works have remained stopped due to the coronavirus pandemic for the last one month. The work slowed down in January when 39 out of 130 Chinese workers employed in the project went back home to celebrate holidays.
The Padma rail link project is another fast track project under the railway authorities which has been affected by the global pandemic.
Till February, the project witnessed spending of only 5.72 percent of its allocation for the current fiscal year.
Project Director Golam Fakhruddin Ahmed Chowdhury told the Business Standard that the project work had started to slowdown in January due to the coronavirus outbreak. Not much work was done in March.
Till February 2020, the project authorities have spent Tk228.48 crore out of its current fiscal allocation of Tk3,995 crore.
The estimated cost of the project was Tk3,498.86 crore.The financial progress till February was only 30.39 percent while the physical progress was 23.43 percent. There was no progress on the work in March.
The project authorities could spend only Tk5, 827 crore to implement the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant from an allocation of Tk14,980 crore for the current fiscal year.
Project Director Dr Shaukat Akbar said construction has been going on amid the outbreak of coronavirus. The overall progress of the project has been more than 25 percent until March. But it could have been even greater if there had not been the shutdown.
According to the progress report for the fast track projects, the Rampal power plant project has made progress amounting to 47.96 percent till February.
The project, which began in 2009, was supposed to have been completed in June 2018.
After a couple of time extensions, the deadline has been set to complete the project in June next year.
The Payra deep seaport, another fast-track project, saw spending of Tk138 crore against Tk500 crore allocated for the period.
The Matarbari coal-fired power plant is the only fast track project where 82 percent of the allocation for this fiscal year has been spent.