The annual report of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) in 2019 identified various irregularities of WASA projects such as failure to implement projects on time, not conforming to the project designs, and increasing project time and costs.

The report blamed project directors, engineers concerned and WASA authorities for the irregularities.

The ACC report also alleged corruption in the appointment of consultants and contractors in WASA projects. It said the WASA projects stipulate some conditions for the selection of consultants and contractors which only enable a certain number of contractors to compete. Syndicate system and political affiliation matters in the selection of contractors, the ACC report said adding that bribes to get work has become a norm. All these irregularities give way to the rise in cost and extension of projects.

Project stalls, cost spirals

The title of Meghna river’s water purification project is ‘Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply’. The project is widely known as ‘Gandharbpur water treatment plant’. Water is to be brought to Gandharbpur plant in Narayanganj’s Siddhirganj from Meghna river at Araihajar’s Bishnandi point. After treatment, water the is to be supplied to households in Dhaka city. The project would supply 500 million litres of water daily.

The cost of the project was Tk 52.48 billion (Tk 5248 crore) at the beginning in October 2013. In the revised project, the cost had been increased to Tk 81.51 billion (Tk 8,151 crore).

An engineer of the project, on condition of anonymity, told Prothom Alo that problems relating to land acquisition for the project are yet to be solved. The authorities proposed to extend the time of the project till December 2024. But the cost would not increase this time.

Sayedabad phase-3

This project of water purification started in 2015. The project would supply around 950 million litres of untreated water to Sayedabad water treatment plant from Meghna river in Sonargaon upazila of Narayanganj. Upon completion, the project would supply 450 million litres of water to Dhaka city daily.

The project worth Tk 45.97 billion (Tk 4597 crore) is funded by the French Development Agency (AFD), KFD Development Bank of Germany, the European Investment Bank and Danida. The project was scheduled to finish in June 2020 but only 4.5 per cent of the project was completed as of last April.

Dasherkandi Sewage Treatment Plant project

This project would treat sewage from Gulshan, Banani, Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Hatirjheel and some other parts of the capital and transfer it to Balu river. The project was supposed to benefit 5 million city dwellers daily by the treatment of 5000 million litre sewage.

The project started in July 2015, was supposed to finish in December 2019. The project is now extended to June 2022 with a cost rise by Tk 3.17 billion. The project has seen 71. 67 per cent completion.

Two city corporations’ projects to mitigate waterlogging

Two projects taken to mitigate water-logging in the city has been progressing at a snail’s pace. One of the projects has seen 32 per cent progress while the other 7 per cent.

The project taken in July 2018 is supposed to excavate five canals of Dhaka city to ease water-logging problems of 3 million people. The Tk 5.55 billion project was supposed to be completed in December 2020. The project has seen only 32.71 per cent progress as of last April. WASA sent a proposal to extend the project till June 2023.

A project at Tk 6.07 billion for land acquisition and excavation of Hazaribagh, Baishteki, Kurmitola, Manda and Begunbari canals was supposed to finish in December 2019. The project, which was started in April 2018, has seen only 7 per cent progress.

Meanwhile on 31 December, the city corporations were given the responsibility of easing water-logging (canal and drainage). As per the decision, all the drainage-related manpower and logistics of WASA would be transferred to two city corporations.

Project for development of Dhaka’s water supply network

The project aimed at reconstruction of water supply network of Jatrabari, Old Dhaka, Dhanmondi, Mirpur-1, Matuail, Uttara and Mirpur-10 areas. The project initiated in April 2016 is supposed to be finished in December 2021. The project had seen 44.6 per cent progress till last April. WASA has proposed to extend the project deadline to December 2023.

Land acquisition for construction of sewerage system in Uttara

This project is supposed to be completed in June 2021 but it has seen progress of only 35 per cent. WASA applied for an extension of this project too.

Replacement of water line

This project, aimed at emergency replacement of water line in different areas of Dhaka city, began in January 2020. The project was supposed to be completed in June 2021 but it got an extension of one more year. The project has seen 38 per cent progress.

WASA’s comment

Taqsem Khan, who was appointed as WASA MD for the sixth tenure, is now in the US on three month's leave. He did not hand over the responsibility before going to the US but WASA director (development) Abdul Kahsem is doing the routine work of the MD.

Abul Kashem did not respond to calls and text messages for his comments. Later, WASA’s public relations department answered the queries in writing.

Project expert and former secretary of the government Fouzul Kabir Khan thinks there is a tendency to extend the time and increase the cost of most of the government projects.

They said implementation of some of their projects is being delayed due to some factors beyond their control such as terms and conditions of the government and developing partners, approval for road excavation, land acquisition process and coronavirus pandemic. Work at two projects has been suspended after WASA’s drainage system was handed over to city corporations.

A report of Transparency Internation Bangladesh (TIB) in April 2019 said that 91 per cent of city dwellers boil water before drinking as water supplied by WASA is not drinkable. The report also said the WASA lacks transparency and accountability in project implementation.

Project expert and former secretary of the government Fouzul Kabir Khan thinks there is a tendency to extend the time and increase the cost of most of the government projects.

He told Prothom Alo that problems are emanating from dependency on contractors.

Lack of good governance and accountability are to be blamed for such a situation, he added.

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