RRI pilot projects in limbo
Contractors of two bamboo bandaling (bundling) three-year pilot projects in Jamalpur district under the River Research Institute (RRI) have not been completed even in four years.
But the authorities concerned have already released the entire expenditure of the projects.
In this situation, people related to the project and experts are doubtful about the future of the projects.
They apprehended that at least Tk2 crore out of the total Tk6 crore might be misappropriated from the two projects.
One year more than the project ending time has passed but neither the RRI authorities nor the Water Resources Ministry have taken any steps to complete the work or recover the huge public funds from the errant contractors.
Instead, it's alleged that some influential high officials of the ministry in connivance with some RRI and project officials are aiding and abating the contractors to embezzle the entire money.
There might be any hidden reason for such move of the authorities, it is alleged.
The projects are 'River
Bank Erosion Protection, Land Reclamation and River Channel Deepening by Bamboo Bandaling Structures at old Brahmaputra River (code 5051) in Jamalpur and 'River Bank Erosion Protection, Land Reclamation and River Channel Deepening Bamboo Bandaling Structures at Jamuna and Doshani River (code 5052)' in the same district.
The RRI authorities are implementing the two projects to prevent river erosion with bamboo bandaling method in Jamalpur district.
Those projects were taken for three years under the former director general of the RRI Engineer Lutfor Rahman.
The pioneer of innovating bamboo bandling method, which has achieved top position in different journals, was also the first project director of the two projects.
However, he was removed from the RRI's top position at the mid-level of the project implementation while only one month before completion of the project he was also removed from the projects. After removing Project Director Lutfor Rahman two project directors - Kazi Rezaul Karim and Pintu Kanoongoe - were appointed only for a month in May 2019.
According to the local parliament member and relevant project officials, two project directors - Rezaul Karim and Pintu Kanoongoe - are helping the contractors to embezzle the huge public money with the support of some ministry officials.
They have no interest to recover the money or complete the works by putting pressure on the contractors.
According to the RRI sources, innovator Lutfor Rahman designed the projects of bamboo bandling method to protect river erosion and land reclamation from rivers. But, he was removed just one month before ending of the project by 30 June, 2019.
Local parliament member (MP) of Jamalpur-2 constituency and Member of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the ministries of home affairs and water resources Faridul Haque Khan (Dulal) wrote a letter to the Water Resources Secretary to take care of the issues mentioning details of the irregularities.
But, the authorities concerned still haven't taken any action, Dulal complained to this correspondent while talking over phone, adding the local stakeholders complained that the River Research Institute authorities were helping the contractors in withdrawing the project money without doing the works.
He visited the site and got the authenticity of complain of local people. He also requested the RRI to complete the work before the upcoming flood of 2020.
Otherwise, the local people will have to face huge sufferings due to river erosions, he added.
Jamalpur's Melandah's Abdus Salam Mia of Gobindi Village also submitted complaints to the State Minister for Water Resources. A copy of the compliant was also submitted to the Anti-Corruption Commission (ACC) Chairman.
Although the ministry hasn't yet taken any measure to investigate the issue, the ACC has already started procedures to probe the allegation.
When contacted over phone recently, project directors of the two projects Pintu Kanoongoe and Kazi Rezaul Karim rejected the allegations.
They told the Daily Observer that the local MP was lying on the issue. They had completed the work and paid the contractors following the rules.
A vested interested group is trying to spread controversy along with the MP. "It may be proved through physical investigation in the project area."