Crores of Taka being floated
Golam Mostafa Jibon: As the government is spending crore of Taka each year to protect the rivers across the country, most of the projects taken in this regard are going on at a snail’s pace due to lack of proper supervision by the authorities concerned. Bulk portion of the money spent in the name of river bank protection or river enhancement is becoming waste for constant corruption and irregularities by the concerned officials.
According to the sources, hundreds of illegal structures for the development of Buriganga, Shitalakshya, Turag and Balu rivers were destroyed and the river conservation project was taken to protect the rivers for several years. However, since 2014, the work of this project is progressing at a snail’s pace.
Though, the protection dams across the river with walkways, key walls, jetties are visible in some areas, highest 4000 boundary pillars out of scheduled 7,500 are now visible on the river basin areas. Most works of the walkway projects are still stalled. The construction of ancillary infrastructure development project including pillar installation, protection, walkway and jetty on the banks of Buriganga, Shitalakshya, Turag and Balu rivers was supposed to be done by June 30 last, but the project time has been extended to June 30 next year (2023).
State Minister of Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said that, the construction and development project of ancillary infrastructure along with the construction of pillars, protection of piers, walkways and jetties on the banks of four rivers-Buriganga, Shitalakshya, Turag and Balu in Dhaka has already been completed. The project involving thousands of crores of Takawas taken to build a tourist area around ancient Buriganga. Again the project time has been extended to June 30 next year. If the project is implemented, it will prevent illegal encroachment on the four river banks surrounding the capital Dhaka, achieve environmental development, enhance beauty and create opportunities for public movement.
BIWTA Supervising Engineer (Pur) and Project Director Abu Zafar Mohammad Shahnewaz Kabir said, “Due to the flood situation last year, it was not possible to call the tenders on time, so the project period has been extended from July 2018 to 2023.But we are not able to work even if the duration of the project is extended. I am getting blocked step by step.”
It is reported that the present government took up a project in the year 2009 after assuming power for the first term to restore the Buriganga river at a cost of about Tk 1,000 crore.
But the project was not implemented in the last a decade due to faulty planning. The work done is not visible. The way the river was supposed to be excavated to make the water flow of the Buriganga river visible was flawed in the design. No survey has been done on the problems that may be faced in acquiring land. Officials had no idea that 22 bridges might be damaged while saving Buriganga river. As a result, the cost of the project of thousands of crore of Taka fell to about Tk 1,200 crore.
Another Tk 850 crore was allocated three years ago through a separate project to stop the illegal encroachment of four rivers around Dhaka while the Buriganga river work was underway. The project of construction of ancillary infrastructure including pillars, bank protection, walkways and jetties on the banks of Buriganga, Turag, Shitalakshya and Balu rivers at a cost of Tk 850 crore was approved in 2018 at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC).
The objective of the project was to protect the banks of Buriganga, Turag, Shitalakshya and Balu rivers from illegal encroachers. But in this project too, the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA)faced obstacles due to wrong planning. Expenditure was increased on four river bank protection projects. The original cost of the project was Tk 848.55 crore. Increasing Tk 332.55 crore, the total expenditure stood at Tk 1,181.82 crore. In this case, the cost was increased by 39.21 percent. Along with that, the term also increases by one more year.
About 52 km walkway will be constructed on the banks of Buriganga, Turag, Shitalakshya and Balu rivers. Once it is completed, work on the project to build another 148 km of walkways will begin from 2024.
The Ministry of Shipping is almost completing the work of setting up the boundary pillars in places where there are large-scale structures on the river land. All those institutions have been requested to move their installations up to the boundary pillars. BIWTA is conducting eviction operations only against those who are obstructing the work of development projects.
A BIWTA official seeking anonymity told that, the raid would cause reputational and financial damage to large industries and housing projects. For this reason, they are being given an opportunity to move their establishment. The authorities said that, the work of the project has been delayed due to Corona. Rising cost of construction materials has also emerged as a new problem.
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