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Mujib Kella fails to make progress despite cost hike

Ashif Islam Shaon
06 Aug 2022 00:00:00 | Update: 06 Aug 2022 00:14:06
Mujib Kella fails to make progress despite cost hike

A Tk 1,997.47 crore initiative — for constructing 550 shelter centres, termed as Mujib Kella, in 152 coastal, flood and erosion-prone upazilas across the country — failed to make progress in four years despite being on the government’s priority list.

Starting from July 2018, the implementation of the project was supposed to be completed by December 2021. But after the authorities failed to meet the deadline, it was extended to December this year in the first project revision. Moreover, the project cost was increased by TK 40 crore, said a project monitoring report.

Meanwhile, the director of the project has been changed four times.

However, till this month, the authorities have completed the construction of only eight, out of 550, shelter centres. Five of those were inaugurated by the prime minister in May last.

According to the report, even those five centres could not be handed over to the local Upazila Parishad for use due to the absence of a standard procedure for handing over. On the other hand, the tender has not been floated yet for the construction of 388 shelter centres.

For some reasons, including complications over acquiring land, submerging of project site under water during rain and erosion, compelled the authorities to shift the site of 45 shelter centres, the report added. 

Locals apprehend that they would face problems taking shelters to some centres during disasters as three per cent of the selected sites are far from the locality, and roads to nine per cent of shelter centres go under water during natural disasters.

Department of Disaster Management under the disaster management and relief ministry has been implementing the project in 40 districts to construct the centres. A number of 743 drinkable water tube wells, 579 fire extinguishers and 1542 KW solar panels would also be installed under the project.

The project authorities said they are trying to inaugurate 55 more shelters as soon as possible.  

According to the project proposal, the shelter centres are supposed to house educational institutes and host social programmes as community centres, besides being used as venues for government meetings and training. The adjacent fields within the boundary will be used as playgrounds or makeshift village markets.

The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED) under the planning ministry has published an in-depth project monitoring report recently where they said that the project has made overall progress of only 19.14%, spending 6.04% of the allocated budget.

The report, however, said that the construction and material quality of the shelters are so far satisfactory.

Delay in completing drawing and design of the centres, repeatedly rectifying designs, land-related complexity, delay in preparing a guideline to handover the centres and stopping of work by the contractor citing price hike of construction materials are the reasons behind the delay in project implementation, said the IMED report.

Besides, the ministry concerned did not supervise the project implementation properly to speed up the work. Even, an agreement with BUET was cancelled before the completion of the project due to BUET’s non-cooperative attitude.

S M Hamidul Haque, an additional secretary of IMED who was involved in preparing the monitoring report, told The Business Post that they have sent the report to the Disaster Management Department asking them to speed up work to complete the project in time.

Asked, if the project cost would be increased further due to delay, he said, “We are not considering to recommend the government to allocate them more money now. But if the project authorities want, we may extend the implementation deadline.”

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman took Cyclone Preparedness Programme (CPP) in July 1973 and 199 shelter centres were built in 19 districts under the programme. People used to call them “Mujib Kella.”

But the centres became unusable due to lack of maintenance and vested quarter grabbed lands over the year. The government wants to develop, repair and build the shelters again under the Mujib Kella construction, repair and development project.

What slowed down project progress?

Six district-level committees chose sites for the shelter centres in January 2017 but six months of the project period passed to get administrative approval.

The project authorities took initiative to ink an agreement with BUET for structural and architectural design but found that the budget for the work is low than BUET’s demand. It took 17 months to sign a deal with BUET after rectifying the funding.

BUET submitted their first Bill of Quantities (BOQ) in February 2020 and the tender of 10 shelter centres was floated accordingly in March. But BUET released the next BOQ and design at a snail’s pace, the IMED project monitoring team found.

The authorities found flaws in the design and sent letters to BUET for correction, but they did not respond properly. Finally, BUET supplied the design and BOQs of 281 shelter centres.

The authorities finding no other way inked a deal with DUET for 164 shelter centres in September 2021. The decision on 105 centres is still pending.

Though the project implementation started in 2018, it took two years to appoint the workforce. Due to BUET’s delay and design flaws construction work was delayed as well.

Another setback was the absence of a proper feasibility study that resulted in improper land selection. The authorities have so far approved 45 new sites scrapping previous selections.

IMED said that some of the sites have been selected based on political lobbying, which were not appropriate for the shelter centres.