POST TIME: 5 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 5 September, 2018 01:19:41 AM
‘Unnecessary’ procurement
BIWTA decides to buy 35 dredgers while 25 lie idle

‘Unnecessary’ procurement

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA), under the shipping ministry, is on a dredger buying spree. It has decided to procure 35 more dredgers at a cost of Tk. 4,600 crore. A development project proposal (DPP) in this regard has been sent to the planning ministry through the shipping ministry for approval, sources in the BIWTA told The Independent.

Some experts have criticised the move to buy more dredgers by a government organisation like the BIWTA. A large manpower, huge amount of fuel and other logistic support are needed to operate the dredgers, they said.

Terming the procurement as a "luxurious" decision, they apprehended it might encourage irregularities and corruption.

In 2017, the government sanctioned procurement of 20 dredgers for the BIWTA, at a cost of Tk. 2,153 crore. These are now under construction.

At present, the BIWTA is unable to run its existing 25 dredgers due to lack of adequate manpower. The decision to procure 35 more dredgers would certainly create more problems, a BIWTA insider told this correspondent on condition of anonymity.

The BIWTA has made the DPP as per directives of the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), a senior official of the BIWTA claimed.

According to the proposed DPP, two 28-inch cutter suction dredgers, eight 24-inch cutter suction dredgers, eight 20-inch cutter suction dredgers, nine 18-inch cutter suction dredgers, two 12-inch cutter suction dredgers and two trailing suction hopper dredgers will be procured.

Besides, twenty-five crane boats, 18 tugboats, 35 houseboats, and 15 houseboats for officers, 22 pipe-carrying barges, 10 dumb barges and excavators will also be procured.

According to BIWTA sources, they have taken up a plan to dredge 700 river routes over the next seven to 10 years in accordance with the directives given by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.

At least 400 dredgers are needed to complete the mega-dredging project, the sources added.

“The decision to procure more dredgers has been taken as per the demand to dredge the country’s rivers to keep them navigable round the year. Besides, maintenance dredging is needed over the year to keep them navigable too,” Rakibul Islam Talukder, additional chief engineer (dredging), also acting chief engineer, told this correspondent.

“Most of the rivers are filling up due to heavy silt. So, more dredgers are needed to keep the rivers navigable, he said.”

Apart from the BIWTA, the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) and the local government and rural development (LGRD) ministry will jointly dredge the country's water bodies as per their jurisdiction, he added.

Talukder also said the BWDB currently has 36 dredgers, while 70 are under the private sector.

The BIWTA will have 45 dredgers after

getting 20 dredgers by 2019. Considering the huge volume of dredging work, the existing dredgers are not adequate to implement the mega-dredging project, he said, adding that the decision to procure 35 more dredgers was taken to enhance the navigability of the rivers.  According to sources, some dredgers have gone out of order because of being kept idle for a long time due to lack of manpower.  However, the finance ministry has recently approved creation of about 312 posts to run the BIWTA dredgers. Apart from this, about 520 more additional personnel would be needed to run the 20 new dredgers that will reach the BIWTA by next year, the sources said.

 The BIWTA has sent a list of 2,000 posts to the public administration ministry for the proposed 35 dredgers.

 “It is nothing but misuse of public money in the name of procurement of dredgers, as many existing dredgers are lying idle,” Abu Naser Khan, chairman of Poribesh Bachao Andolan (POBA), told this correspondent.

 There is need to dredge the country’s rivers for maintaining ecological balance, he said. It is also important to use resources properly, he added.  The BIWTA had appointed 182 people to operate seven dredgers that were procured in 1975 by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.