Dhaka WASA started work in October 2013 to purify the water of the Meghna River from Narayanganj and supply it to the capital. The duration of the project was till December 2020. WASA has done only 39 percent work in seven years. In this case the term was extended for two and a half years. The cost of the project was increased to Tk 2,903 crore. Now WASA has proposed to extend the term for another two and a half years.
Reviewing the data of Dhaka WASA project, it is seen that out of 10 ongoing projects, 8 of them were not completed on time. Apart from the approved cost of these projects, the expenditure has been increased by another Tk 3,600 crore. Four of the eight projects have been extended. Four have been proposed to be extended. One of the remaining two projects is scheduled to be completed in 2023 and the other in 2024. But the work of one of them is 23 percent and the work of the other is only 8 percent. The total cost of these 10 projects is Tk 26,061 crore.
The projects under implementation by WASA are related to water supply, wastewater treatment and waterlogging. Due to untimely implementation, the project is less likely to reap the full benefits of its purpose. Because over time, that is likely to change. WASA’s target for water supply from surface sources is not being met. It is not possible to manage the waste according to the master plan. The responsibility has been shifted from WASA to two city corporations for failing to address waterlogging.
Professor Akhter Mahmud, president of the Bangladesh Institute of Planners, an organization of urbanists , told Prothom Alo that a new trend has been created to increase the duration and cost of the project. This is not justifiable in any way. He said the feasibility study needs to be done properly before taking up the project. After approval, the cost of the project can no longer be increased – the government should introduce such a rule now.
The tenure of WASA Managing Director (MD) is also increasing like the WASA project. Taksim A Khan has been in charge for 11 long years. Despite facing severe criticism and controversy over the quality of citizen service, he is being appointed as the MD of WASA from time to time.
The 2019 annual report of the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) said that WASA projects were not completed on time, did not work as planned and there were various irregularities and corruption including abnormal increase in project duration and cost. These projects involve the project director, the project implementation engineer and the WASA management authority.
The ACC report also alleges corruption in the selection of consultants and contractors for the WASA project. It said the WASA project stipulates certain conditions for the selection of consultants and contractors so that a certain number of contractors can compete. Syndicate methods and political identities in the selection of contractors and bribery in exchange for getting a job have now become a common practice. As a result, the work on the project is not completed on time as per the specification and design and the cost of the project increases abnormally.
Projects are stuck, costs are rising
The name of the project taken for the treatment of Meghna river is ‘Dhaka Environmentally Sustainable Water Supply’. This is better known as ‘Gandharbapur Water Treatment Plant’. Water will be brought from Meghna river at Bishanandi point of Araihazar in Narayanganj to the refinery under construction in Gandharbpur area of Siddhirganj. It will be purified there and supplied to homes in the capital through pipelines. 500 million liters of water is expected to come daily from this project.
The cost of the project, which started in October 2013, was estimated at Tk 5,247 crore. Expenditure of Tk 2,903 crore has been increased in the revised project. As a result, it is now a project worth Tk 8,151 crore. An engineer of the project, who did not want to be named , told Prothom Alo that the complexity of land acquisition has not been resolved yet. It has been proposed to extend the period till December 2024. However, this time the project cost is not being increased.
Phase-3 of Sayedabad
Work on this water treatment project started in 2015. About 95 crore liters of untreated water from Sonargaon upazila area of Narayanganj of Meghna river is to be supplied to Sayedabad refinery daily. The purpose of the project is to purify that water and supply additional 45 crore liters of water daily to the Dhaka metropolis in addition to the existing supply.
The Tk 4,598 crore project is being funded by the French Development Agency (AFD), Germany’s KFW Development Bank, The European Investment Bank and Danida. The work is expected to be completed by June 2020. But until last April, the progress of the project was only 4 and a half percent. It is difficult to say when the project will end if work continues at this pace.
Dasherkandi Sewage Treatment Plant
Through this project, sewage from Gulshan, Banani, Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Hatirjheel and some other areas of the capital will be treated and dumped in Balu river. The objective of the project was to serve 5 million city dwellers by treating 500 million liters of sewage daily.
The project started in July 2015 and is expected to be completed in December 2019. Initially, the cost of the project was Tk 3,317 crore. The duration of the project has been extended till June 2022 and the cost has been increased to Tk 395 crore. This is now a project worth Tk 3,612 crore. 61.8% work of the project has been completed.
Two waterlogging projects in the city corporation
The pace of the two projects to improve the waterlogging situation in Dhaka has also slowed down. Even after the extension, the work of one project has been completed by 32 percent and that of the other by only 8 percent.
A project titled ‘Dhaka Metropolitan Drainage Network Expansion and Canal Development’ was taken up in July 2016. The main purpose was to excavate the canals by acquiring land for five canals. This would have saved 3 million people of Dhaka city from waterlogging.
The project worth Tk 550 crore 50 lakh was valid till December 2020. As of last April, the actual progress of the project has been 32.61 percent. 138 crore 45 lakh has been spent. Dhaka WASA has proposed to extend the project till June 2023.
Another was land acquisition and excavation projects in Hazaribagh, Baishteki, Kurmitola, Manda and Begunbari canals. The expenditure was estimated at Tk 808.17 crore. The project, which started in April 2016, was valid till December 2019. The actual progress of the project till April is only 6 percent. The revised term has been extended in two phases to December 2022. The cost has risen to Tk 845.51 crore.
In this situation, on 31 December, the responsibility of eliminating waterlogging (canal and drainage) of Dhaka city was handed over to two city corporations. According to him, the manpower and resources of Dhaka WASA related to drainage will go to the two city corporations.
Dhaka Water Supply Network Development Project
The main objective was to rehabilitate the water supply network of Jatrabari, Old Dhaka, Dhanmondi, Mirpur 1, Matuail, Uttara and Mirpur 10. Work on this project worth Tk 3,162 crore started in April 2016. The work was supposed to be completed in December 2021. The progress of the work till last April is 44.60 percent. WASA authorities have proposed to extend the project till December 2023.
Land acquisition project for construction of sewage treatment plant in Uttara area
The project, which started in July 2019, is valid till June 2021. So far the real progress is 35 percent. WASA has also applied for extension of this project.
Water line emergency replacement project
Work on the emergency replacement project of water lines in different areas of Dhaka metropolis started in January 2020. Term till June 2021. So far 38 percent of the work has been done. The duration of the project has been extended till June 2022.
Statement of Dhaka WASA
Taksim A Khan, who has been the MD of Dhaka WASA for the sixth time, is now in the United States on a three-month leave. But he did not hand over the responsibility to anyone. However, Dhaka WASA Director (Development) Abul Kashem is doing routine work on behalf of the MD. Abul Kashem was called and texted on his mobile phone to comment on the projects, but did not respond. Later, WASA authorities sent a written reply through WASA’s public relations department.
Regarding the slow pace and cost increase of the project, WASA said that the implementation of the project is being delayed due to some reasons beyond their control. These include government and donor regulations, road excavation permits, land acquisition processes and the Corona epidemic. Work on two projects has been stalled since December 31 as WASA’s drainage management was handed over to the City Corporation.
In April 2019, Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) published a report titled ‘Dhaka WASA: Challenges of Good Governance and Ways to Overcome It’. It said 91 per cent of consumers drank drinking water as Dhaka WASA could not supply potable water through the pipeline. The company lacks transparency and accountability in project implementation.
Muhammad Fauzul Kabir Khan, a project expert and former government secretary, said there was a tendency for most government agencies to increase project time and cost. He told Prothom Alo that the problem is getting worse as it is a contractor based project. The capacity of the companies is declining. Such a situation is being created due to lack of good governance and accountability.