In 2021, Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved a mega project worth Tk 996.30 crore in 2021 to permanently free three upazilas of Moulvibazar from flood.
Fifty-three contractors were selected for the project, which was scheduled to be completed by 2023. There were 76 work packages based on which the authorities planned to approach the project.
But due to an apparent fund crisis, no visible work has been completed so far.
Out of the 72 work packages, 26 have already been abandoned. Work on the remaining 46 packages is continuing at a snail’s pace. The projects it could be stopped anytime due to a lack of funds, said representatives of the Water Development Board and the contractors, seeking anonymity.
The most important works, including dredging of rivers and construction of river protection dams have not even started in most of these sites.
Repairing an embankment of the Manu river, and dredging the waterbody was part of this project. However, these works have completely stopped.
Manu river, which descends from Tripura state of India, has completely been filled with silt a long time ago. However, the river was not dredged for a single time since independence.
As a result, every year during monsoon, the river overflows and breaks the defense dam, flooding the three upazilas — Moulvibazar Sadar, Rajnagar and Kulaura. Houses and crops worth crores of taka get damaged during this time as well.
Sundar Ali, a resident of Manumukh area in Kulaura upazila in the district, said, “At first I thought this project was a blessing for us. But now I am afraid. If the project isn’t completed before the next monsoon, we will be in danger all over again.”
According to WDB sources, only Tk 75 crore of the allocated Tk 996 crore has been handed over to them so far.
Moulvibazar WDB sub-divisional engineer Rakhil Raihan said the contractor companies are showing reluctance to work due to the financial crisis.
Moulvibazar WDB executive engineer Muhammad Akhtaruzzaman said they have requested the higher authorities to formally extend the deadline of the project and hand over the remaining allocated money.
“If the deadline is extended, the contractors will be directed to complete the remaining work quickly,” he added.
Contacted, several contractor companies said they were forced to stop the majority works of the flood protection project due to unavailability of allocated money.
The rising price of construction materials didn’t help either, they added.