Flood protection project in limbo

Dhaka,  Tue,  26 September 2017
Published : 25 Aug 2017, 23:07:20

Flood protection project in limbo

Now that almost half of the country is literally under flood waters with human misery at a terrible state, many quarters are looking back to find flaws with the authorities concerned who, as it now appears, have done little sitting on big flood protection projects. There are projects, some of which are believed to be well targeted to address flood control during the monsoon season. One such project taken up way back in 2011 is languishing with little or no progress, having already over-run completion deadline by more than two years ago.

The project titled 'Pre-monsoon Flood Protection and Drainage Improvement in Haor Area' was a well designed one with components meant to particularly address the situation in the low-lying haor belt of greater Sylhet and Mymensingh districts. Given that the haor belt is highly vulnerable to flash floods and that there are some unique features too in the way floods affect the livelihood of millions of people living in the areas, the aforesaid project was supposed to be a milestone in controlling flood waters. Costing over Tk 7.0 billion, the project was meant to protect nearly 30 upazilas of Sylhet, Sunamganj, Moulvibazar, Habiganj, Kishoreganj and Netrakona from mansoon flooding. Thirty six of 52 haor areas under the project were in Sunamganj. A priority project by all means, it had the work-plan of building and repairing flood protection embankments and improving drainage system in the belt that experiences highest rainfall in the country. 

Like the fate of most other projects in different fields, this one too got snagged due to many hurdles, which among others allegedly included non-disbursement of funds, lack of adequate manpower to execute and monitor progress of work, and indeed importantly, lack of thrust on the part of the implementing agency --the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB).  The sorry state of the project is clearly evident from a report published in a national contemporary saying that since the inception of the project, the BWDB has so far been able to  spend as little as one fifth of the project fund, including the over-run period that makes the project tenure six years. Worst perhaps is the fact that during the period as many as eleven project directors got appointed-a clear enough indication that neither the concerned ministry nor the implementing agency took care to see that the project is completed in due time under able leadership.

Observers, while expressing frustration over the project, are of the view that had the works been done as scheduled and designed, people in the large swathes of the haor belt could have been protected from the current deluge. If disbursement of fund, among others, is actually one of the reasons for poor progress, it is inconceivable why the project was undertaken when funding was not certain.  It is pretty well known that projects such as the aforesaid one can only see success if all the inter-related components work simultaneously. Otherwise, half-done works when restarted after undesirable lapse of time, the very foundation of the work gets weakened rendering it useless. It is not known what the government is thinking to find a way out, if any, to address the matter.
Editor : A.H.M Moazzem Hossain
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