A report published by this paper on Thursday about a government project to make the country's waterways navigable within 10 years is a perfect example of how inefficiency and mismanagement can turn important projects stagnant. In 2010, Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) was given the mandate and money to complete the dredging project within 2020. For this purpose, it was supposed to procure 21 dredgers by 2012; yet in the seven years that have passed, only five have been bought. After three extensions, now the BWDB is asking for a further three years, just to complete the procurement.
The project was conceived after a BIWTA report about the drastic shrinkage of the country's waterway network. Our river system carries almost a fifth of the world's annual silt flow, and therefore, to keep the rivers navigable and ease suffering of people living on the coasts, three crore cubic metres of dredging are required annually. That the government acted so fast and allocated Tk 1,309 crore for the project shows the importance it was given initially. Had the dredgers been purchased timely, we could dredge 2.21 crore cubic metres a year by now.
The BWDB officials have continued with the excuse of a slow tender process and non-responsiveness of bidders. Even if it were true, the last five years should have been enough to come up with a plan. That these excuses are flimsy at best is highlighted by the planning ministry's letter about 15 more BWDB supervised projects that have been behind schedule since 2010. When the money has been allocated, there should be no excuse for these unacceptable delays. The planning ministry should investigate the actual causes behind these delays and hold to account those responsible for it.