The Teesta bridge project term has ended even before work on it could commence. The term of the project has been extended and the costs have been increased by Tk 1.55 billion (Tk 155 crore).
The river Teesta flows along the Chilmari border of Sundarganj and Kurigram. Prime minister Sheikh Hasina on 25 January 2014 inaugurated the project for 1,480 meter bridge, through a video conference at the Gaibandha Circuit House.
The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) is the project's implementing agency. The estimated cost of the project was Tk 7.3 billion (Tk 730 crore), with a large chunk of the funds coming from Saudi Arabia.
Sources in LGED said they had called for international tenders several times to appoint consultants for the project in keeping with donor requirements. Selection was an Indian company had been almost finalised, but its performance guarantee report proved to be fake. The company was black listed and a Chinese company was finally appointed through re-tender.
In 2018 another tender was floated for the construction of the bridge. China State Construction Engineering Corporation was appointed. However, before work could commence on the construction of the bridge, the term of the project expired on 30 June 2019.
Accountability of the project's time and expenditure must be ensured. Action must be taken against those responsible for the project not taking off even after a year. Monitoring of government projects must be stepped up
LGED came up with a proposal to extend the term of the project. The proposal was approved on 6 July at the meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) with additional costs added to the amended project. The estimated expenditure as now Tk 8.85 billion (Tk 885 crore). The Bangladesh government will provide with Tk 2.93 billion (Tk 293 crore) and the rest will be provided by Saudi Arabia. The new project term now ends in June 2023.
Project director Abdul Malek, speaking to Prothom Alo, held coronavirus responsible for the delay in project implementation. The construction company was to have begun work in keeping with the contract. They have asked for advance payment to bring in workers and equipment. However, the Saudi donors are delaying in the release of funds.
The officials involved said the expenditure of the main bridge remained the same but the cost of land acquisition and wages have increased.
The people of Kurigram and Gaibandha had long been demanding the bridge. There is to be a 90km connecting road with the bridge, with 2 km on either end. This will make commute easier for the residents of Lalmonithat, Kurigram and Gaibandha as well as promote commercial activities, reducing the distance with Dhaka.
The Gaibandha district administration was allocated Tk 300 million (Tk 30 crore) for land acquisition, but it has failed to begin the task. The director of the project blames the district administration's lack of cooperation for this delay.
Executive magistrate and assistant commissioner (land acquisition) of the Gaibandha district administration office, Shahidul Islam, said 12 cases had been filed regarding land acquisition. Only 6 had been resolved and the remaining six were on the way to resolution. He said that papers regarding land acquisition had been held up for long in the ministry. He also said lack of workforce was a reason for this delay.
However, executive director of the research institute South Asian Network on Economic Modeling (SANEM) Selim Raihan thinks that government project lacks transparency. He told Prothom Alo that the accountability of the project's time and expenditure must be ensured. Action must be taken against those responsible for the project not taking off even after a year. Monitoring of government projects must be stepped up, he said.