The estimated cost of the much-hyped Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project is likely to see a rise for the third time by around Tk 1,400 crore to take the overall project cost up to Tk 30,193.38 crore as acquisition of additional land is required for the project.
The last and second revision of the Padma Bridge Project was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on January 5, 2016 with an estimated cost of Tk 28,793.38 crore to be implemented by December 2018.
The Padma Bridge Project was first approved by Ecnec in 2007 with an estimated cost of Tk 10,161.75 crore. Later, the length of the bridge was increased due to change in design for which the estimated cost hiked to Tk 20,507.20 crore which was approved by Ecnec in 2011.
Talking to UNB, a Planning Commission official preferring anonymity said in the original Development Project Proforma (DPP), Tk 1,299 crore was allocated for the acquisition of some 1,530 hectares of land and the amount has already been spent. "But, now there's a need to acquire some 2,698 hectares of land for which additional Tk 1,400 crore is needed."
Under the present circumstances, the official informed, there is a need to acquire additional 1168 hectares of land in Munshiganj, Madaripur and Shariatpur districts.
Talking to the news agency, another official at the Bridges Division said since the allocated amount against land acquisition as per the DPP has already been spent it is not possible now to acquire additional land which is also hampering the project works.
"Besides, the contractor will have to give a huge compensation if necessary land is not found in the right time. As a result, the project implementation might be delayed," he said.
Under the current scenario, the Bridges Division has already sent a proposal to the Planning Commission for its approval for the cost hike of the project considering the significance of this fast track project and implementing it properly within the stipulated timeframe.
The official also said the proposed project cost hike of Tk 1,400 crore is 4.86 percent of the overall project cost and, in such case, the Planning Commission could approve the cost hike if it remains within five percent of the overall project cost according to a notification of the Planning Division to avert further revision of any project.
In the main project design, there were some low-lying land and due to some delay in project work and those lands were filled with silt with the passage of time.
Besides, the prices of those lands have been increased as the farmers are often expressing their unwillingness to give those lands as those become much more fertile due to siltation and even they are not interested to rent out those.
The Bridges Division official said the project authorities need to keep necessary construction materials and big concrete blocks on those lands and subsequently land acquisition proposal was made to the land owners. "But, they aren't interested in the proposal and even they aren't convinced when the matter was raised before them taking along the local administration."
The implementation of the Padma Bridge faced a setback in the earlier stage as on June 29, 2012, the World Bank had cancelled its $ 1.2-billion IDA credit for the project, claiming that it had credible evidence of a corruption conspiracy among high-level Bangladeshi government officials, SNC Lavalin executives, and private individuals.
After that, the government took it as a challenge and decided to implement the project with its own fund.