Payra deep seaport to see more delays as infrastructure development takes time

The Daily Star  November 24, 2020

The government’s efforts to fast-track the construction of Payra deep-sea port in Patuakhali has received a blow as the primary infrastructure development project is set to be delayed by two years while the cost will go up by Tk 1,024 crore.

The cost of the seaport project in Patuakhali many increase by 23 per cent from the last estimate of Tk 3,350 crore to meet the additional expenses on land acquisition, among others.

The planning ministry will place the second revised proposal at the meeting of the executive committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) today.

The project, which aims at making the port operational on a limited scale by developing infrastructure and facilities, is being implemented by an agency under the shipping ministry.

The project was undertaken in 2015 with an estimated cost of Tk 1,128 crore. The expenditure went up to Tk 3,350 crore in the first revision.

A source in the planning ministry said the compensation for the land went up by three times as per the Land Acquisition Act, 2017. So, the value of land has shot up to Tk 2,338 crore, from Tk 1,116 crore from the previous estimate.

The increase in the period of training for the people affected by the land acquisition, the delay in rehabilitation works and the transfer of land were among other reasons.

According to Mohiuddin Ahmed Khan, director for administration at Payra Port Authority, only 3,000 acres of land have been acquired so far out of the planned 6,000 acres.

“The rest will be acquired soon,” he said.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened the country’s third sea-port in 2013 to reduce the pressure on the Chattogram and Mongla ports. But the project saw little progress despite having been included in the government’s fast-track projects.

As the government prioritised the construction of a deep-sea port in Payra, it moved to prepare the master plan and design the Payra deep-sea port by engaging the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet).

Buet is working as a consultant under which its experts will prepare the master plan and design, said a Payra Port Authority letter to Buet on Monday. The masterplan has not been completed.

Under the consultancy job, Buet will also estimate the costs of all the 19 components of the project.

Of the components, 13 will be implemented under foreign direct investment and the rest under the government-to-government deals with an estimated cost between $11 billion and $15 billion.

The Payra port venture has drawn investment and development proposals from China, the UK, Belgium, the Netherlands, Denmark and India.

According to a techno-feasibility study prepared by British firm HR Wallingford & Consortium, Payra port will require around 7,000 acres of land. Of the land, 6,000 acres will be used for port development, 500 acres for coal terminal and the rest for resettlement of the people affected by the construction of the port.

Another project — the construction of the first terminal and related infrastructure of the Payra Sea Port — is facing a similar problem.

The project was undertaken in October 2018 and was due to be completed by September 2021 at the cost of Tk 3,982 crore. Tk 23 crore has for far been spent with little progress.

As the government took up a mega plan about the port and the region, a 1,320-megawatt coal-fired power plant in Payra began test production in January, making it the first large-scale electricity unit to come into operation since the Awami League swept to power a decade ago.