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China-funded mega projects veer off track

Implementers, contractors trade blame


MIR MOSTAFIZUR RAHAMAN | November 09, 2019 00:00:00


A number of China-funded mega infrastructure projects involving billions of dollars are not on track, with contractors and implementing agencies blaming each other for the slow progress.

This has been identified in the review report of a recent meeting between the Bangladesh and Chinese sides.

The meeting participated by senior officials of the Economic Relations Division and the Chinese Embassy took stock of the progress of the projects being implemented on a government to government basis.

Officials of the line ministries and the representatives of the Chinese contractors blamed each other for the disruption in the project implementation.

Talking to the FE, a senior official of the finance ministry said there may be various types of problems as the country has little experience in implementing such big projects.

"But both sides are serious about implementing these projects," the official, who was present in the meeting, said on condition of anonymity.

In the meeting, representatives of the Chinese Railway Engineering Corporation, which has been awarded the US$2.6 billion Padma Rail Link project said though the Bangladesh authorities handed over land to it, there were problems related to garbage and rubbish, which needs to be removed.

They alleged that service facilities were not transferred and remains of demolished structures were not removed from the project land.

From Bhanga to Jashore out of 82 km only 13 km and from Mawa to Bhanga out of 40 km only 17 km is ready for work, according to the report.

Half the land is not accessible and in some cases, there are forest and buildings, the report said, quoting the representative of the Chinese contractor.

But representative of the Bangladesh Railway brushed aside the allegations and told the meeting that most of the land has been handed over.

Though the acquisition of a small portion of land is pending, it will not be "a serious problem" for carrying on the project work by the Chinese builder, the representative said.

He also said the project authority is yet to receive updated work programme from the Chinese company as it will prepare land based on the updated programme, said the report, a copy of which has been obtained by the FE.

The meeting underlined the need for resolving the issues through mutual discussion instead of blaming each other so that the work can be progressed smoothly, the review report noted.

The project's original target was to lay tracks covering a total of 172 km between Dhaka and Jashore by the time of the Padma Bridge's scheduled opening in December this year.

But it is now clear that the rail link will not be opened by that time.

Railway officials said the Padma rail link project is being implemented in three phases -Dhaka to Mawa, Jajira to Faridpur and Faridpur to Jashore-Khulna.

According to the project summary, the total distance covered by this railway track will be 172km.

Including the loop lines, the total length of the track will be around 215.22km, however.

About the the progress of the construction of the multilane road tunnel under the River Karnaphuli, the representative of the contractor told the meeting some structural obstacles still exist on the east bank of the river, which need to be demolished.

The China Communications Construction Company Limited is the contractor of the tunnel project.

But officials of the relevant ministry said that the land, except for some pockets, was handed over to the Chinese contractor, who is implementing the $800 million project.

They said the China Exim Bank, which is funding the project, took longer to release the money.

The meeting decided that the ERD will send reminder to Exim Bank for releasing the two pending installments.

The entire project, connecting the east and west sides of the Karnaphuli River, has a total length of 9,092 meters.

The tunnel is designed with a length of 3,500 meters and the shield part is about 2,450 meters. The two-way, four-lane tunnel applies Chinese standards with a design speed of 80 kilometers per hour.

About the implementation status of the Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone project, representative from the state-run Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority said the onsite work is progressing under the public-private partnership model.

After the feasibility study, a preliminary application was sent to the Chinese Embassy for seeking loan for the development of offsite infrastructure.

Project proposal has been prepared, but it cannot be submitted without loan confirmation.

In response, the embassy official informed that the project is of high importance. The project proposal has been sent to the Chinese Authority, which is now evaluating it.

Under this project, China is developing a 750-acre industrial park in Bangladesh, which will largely be used by Chinese manufacturing firms.

State-run China Harbour Engineering Company will hold a 70 per cent share in a joint venture with the Bangladesh Special Economic Zone Authority.

The meeting also discussed the delay in financing the construction of Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway project involving $3.4 billion.

In response, the embassy official said the Exim Bank is making financing arrangements for the G2G project.

It was decided in the meeting the ERD will invite Exim Bank officials through the Chinese embassy for preliminary loan negotiations in Dhaka.

mirmostafiz@yahoo.com


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