‘New’ town, same old mistakes

The Daily Star  June 10, 2021

Why is there no accountability for the gross delay of Purbachal project?

What was supposed to be an “ideal town” to take some of the population burden off Dhaka city has so far been revised five times since its initiation in 1995, with its progress still a far cry from completion. It has now been 11 years since the initial deadline of Rajuk’s Purbachal New Town project, and the initial population estimate (10 lakh) has nearly tripled while the initial project cost (Tk 3,312 crore) has more than tripled. Let us not forget that all of these delays and revisions are being financed by public money.

In clear violation of a 2014 High Court order to not “efface, subtract, vary or modify the forest, lakes, canals, urban green, parks, playgrounds” as per the fourth revision and without its permission, Rajuk deemed it okay to allegedly reassign land meant for schools, playgrounds and open spaces to 89 new plots. Adding insult to injury, Rajuk is now dismantling the four-lane road (completed in 2018 at a cost of Tk 275 crore) to put in place an eight-lane expressway that was supposedly in the original plan but did not have the funding for before. According to the secretary general of Bangladesh Institute of Planners, Rajuk is also shifting to an underground cable ducting system from the overhead power lines it had already put in place. As for other utility lines (gas, sewage, water), there is apparently no clear plan.

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The lack of planning and accountability would be baffling if we were not already so accustomed to large-scale government projects such as these costing the public time and money beyond their deadlines. Still, we cannot ignore the authorities’ sheer disregard for public money and interest when absurdly lengthy delays like this can go on unchecked. How can an HC order be flouted so blatantly without any acceptable reason?

It is high time for Rajuk and other responsible parties to be held accountable for these delays and ever-increasing costs of the Purbachal housing project. They must be made to explain these shortcomings and compensate the public for them, instead of receiving a customary slap on the wrist. The government must be more concerned about such questionable accountability mechanisms since these delays are bottlenecks to its development goals as much as they gobble up valuable resources and funds. We believe this is how such common fallibilities of large-scale government projects should be dealt with—by the government itself.


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