Five new projects despite 70pc of first project incomplete

Sewerage construction work is proceeds at a slow pace. Photo is taken from Halishahar, ChattogramProthom Alo

Chattogram WASA has launched a sewerage project aimed at safeguarding the city residents from pollution. The initial project was scheduled to be completed by June last year, but only 30 per cent of the work has been finished so far. Despite this, WASA has taken up five additional similar projects without even finishing the first one.

The duration of the first project has been extended by one year. However, experts and WASA engineers are skeptical about the remaining work being completed on time within the extended timeframe. They believe that at the current pace of work, it may take at least three years to accomplish the project.

WASA engineers blame the Covid pandemic for the delay in completing the project. On the other hand, experts point out that there was a flaw in the preparation of the Development Project Proposal (DPP). As a result of the work delay, the cost of the project is increasing, although the exact increase has not been determined yet. The project, with a total cost of Tk 38.08 billion, is being funded by the government and WASA, with the latter contributing Tk 500 million.

The project titled 'Establishment of Sewerage System in Chattogram City' was approved at a National Economic Council Executive Committee meeting (ECNEC) on 7 November 2018. The DPP of the project initially stated that Chattogram would have a sewerage management system in place by 2023. However, the project faced delays, taking a year to appoint a consultant, which was finalised on 4 November 2019. Tenders for contractor appointments were invited in October 2020. Subsequently, in January 2022, WASA selected South Korea's Taeyoung Engineering and Construction Company Limited as the contractor. The actual work on the project commenced in the same month, nearly three years after its approval.

Delay in start, slow pace

According to the project document, a sewage treatment plant with a treatment capacity of 100 million litres per day, a septic tank waste treatment plant with a treatment capacity of 300 cubic metres per day, 200 km of sewers will be constructed. In this, 36 square kilometres area of 22 wards of Chattogram city will come under the project. And 2 million people will benefit from improved sewage system.

However, according to the project progress report, only two kilometres of sewage has been built so far. Apart from this, the construction of the sewage treatment plant has not been completed. Only the piling work has been completed.

During a visit to the Chowchala project area in Halishahar, Chattogram city, this correspondent observed several large sewerage pipes in rows. Workers were engaged in various tasks such as fitting iron rods and carpeting work. The engineers on the project explained that the sewage would accumulate at the pumping station, which, however, has not started construction yet. The waste from the pumping station will be directed to a Biological Treatment Facilities (BTF) plant, where casting has already been completed, and wall construction is currently in progress. Subsequently, the waste from the BTF plant will be sent to another plant known as the secondary clarifier, although the construction of this plant has not started as of now.

It has been learnt that the company faced delays in explaining the project area to the contractor. There were also legal complications associated with the area, and they had to engage in discussions with the local residents. Eviction the area encountered obstacles during this process.

According to Mohammad Ariful Islam, the Executive Engineer of Chattogram WASA and the Project Director, the project faced delays in starting on time due to the Covid pandemic, resulting in slower progress. Additionally, during the Covid period, officials from the consulting firm ERINCO had to move to Malaysia, further contributing to the delay. Furthermore, the construction of pump stations in Uttar Kattali and Patenga catchment areas added to the project's workload, leading to a reduction in the size of the current project's plant and causing additional delays. However, he mentioned that currently, the work is progressing at a rapid

While WASA cited the Covid pandemic as an excuse for the delays in their project, several significant projects continued in Chattogram during the same period. For instance, the construction of the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel under the Karnaphuli River progressed, and approximately 98 per cent of the work has been completed so far. Similarly, the Dohazari-Cox's Bazar railway line construction was also ongoing during the Covid period.

Five more projects

The agency has divided the entire city into six zones or catchments to implement sewage treatment projects. These catchments include Halishahar, Kalurghat, Fatehabad, East Baklia, North Kattali, and Patenga. While WASA is facing challenges in the construction of the Halishahar catchment, they are securing loans to fund five more catchments. Several donor agencies have agreed to provide loans for these projects, with an estimated total cost of Tk 169.72 billion. JICA will fund two of the catchments, while the remaining three will be financed by South Korea's Economic Development Cooperation Fund (EDCF), France's government-funded agency Agence France Development (AFD), and Japan's Marubeni Corporation. Recently, eight WASA engineers, along with the MD, visited Japan at the invitation of JICA to observe sewage management practices.

Project Director Mohammad Ariful Islam said the feasibility of remaining five projects have been completed. Now the work of making DPP is underway.

Muhammad Rashidul Hasan, the Head of the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Chittagong University of Engineering and Technology (CUET), expressed his concern over the situation, stating that it is unacceptable to initiate more projects without completing this significant project within the designated timeframe.

He emphasised the crucial importance of the sewerage project in safeguarding Chattogram city from pollution, and citizens had high hopes for this initiative by the organisation. However, the current progress of the project, at only 30 per cent, is deemed unsatisfactory. He suggested that the government hold WASA accountable for this matter before considering approval for any new projects.

* The report, originally appeared in Prothom Alo print edition, has been rewritten in English by Farjana Liakat