Tk10,426 crore is allocated for these projects, whose deadlines need to be extended for the money to be used
The project — Greater Dhaka Sustainable Urban Transport (BRT Gazipur-Airport) — to construct a two-lane elevated road from Gazipur to Airport started in 2012 and was supposed to end in 2016, but in the last eight years only some pillars were erected.
The project's extended deadline is expiring this month. Although Tk402 crore is allocated for the project in the next fiscal year, none of it would be spendable without extending the deadline once again. So, the authorities concerned are taking initiative to extend the project's duration, which will result in increasing its cost.
This is one of the 94 projects of the Road Transport and Highway Division (RTHD) whose implementation period will end on June 30. There are also six other projects, the deadlines of which have already expired.
So, RTHD will start the new fiscal year with 100 projects with their deadlines expired. This is more than half of the 196 projects of the division.
In the new fiscal year, Tk24,825 crore is allocated for the RTHD, which is the second highest among the annual development programmes. Of this amount, Tk10,426 crore is for the 100 slow-going projects.
Khalilur Rahman, chief of programming division of the Planning Commission, said, "Much of the money allocated for the projects whose deadlines have expired lies idle. Money can be spent for these projects only after extending their deadlines by the ministry or the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec)."
More than hundred projects, 25 of roads have extended for six months and not required nod of the Ecnec, he added.
According to the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division, initially the BRT Gazipur-Airport project's cost was set at Tk2,040 crore, which rose by Tk2,228 crore to reach Tk4,268 crore in the first revision.
Experts think that traffic jam on roads is not decreasing as these projects are being delayed for years.
Dr Shamsul Haque, professor of Civil Engineering Department at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), said, "It would have been possible to come from Gazipur to the airport in 20 minutes if the work of 'Gazipur-Airport BRT' project was completed. We could enjoy this facility since 2016."
As the projects are not ending within stipulated time, Bangladesh's bus rapid transits or BRT has become the most expensive BRT in the world, he observed.
Giving an example, Dr Shamsul said, "Constructing one kilometer BRT should cost $0.5-1 million. But in Bangladesh this cost has crossed $22 million and preparation is going on to increase it to $27 million."
He further said BRTs are suitable for medium traffic rush, but by the time the Gazipur-Airport BRT project will end, it will not be suitable for the increased number of vehicles it will have to accommodate.
He also thinks that almost every project in road and highway sector suffers from mismanagement and lack of skills.
These projects are prepared without proper planning. Officials who are about to retire are given key responsibilities in these projects. So, nobody can be held accountable for these projects as the key persons in the projects are changed repeatedly.
Quazi Shahriar Hossain, chief engineer of the of the Roads and Highways Department, told The Business Standard, "Some projects' implementation was delayed due to problems regarding land acquisition and complexities in appointing consultants and delay in procurements."
He also said his department was determined to complete some projects by June 30, but 25 of those projects could not be completed due to the Covid-19 crisis. The planning ministry has allowed another six months to complete these projects with the previously determined cost.
One of the slow projects is the "Improvement of Joydebpur-Chandra-Tangail-Elenga road to four-lane highway" project of the RTHD under the Sasec Road Connectivity project.
The project costing Tk5,593 crore was scheduled to end in 2013, but so far 68.77 percent of the money allotted for it has been spent. Although, Tk440 crore has been allotted for the project in the new fiscal year, none of it would be usable without extending its deadline.
When contacted, Md Abdul Ahad, assistant director of the project, said, "Some more work was added to the project after it was started. So, it is taking extra time."
"The project's work has also been halted for many days due to the coronavirus pandemic," he said.
He further said a proposal to extend the implementation period of the project was sent to the Planning Commission. Once the authorities approve the proposal, the project will be resumed.