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Karnaphuli Capital Dredging in Limbo; Port Operation Being Hampered

Posted on July 19, 2016

Massive siltation in the Karnaphuli River channel is hampering the operation in Chittagong port as the capital dredging in the river now hangs in the balance due to ‘legal complications’.

During a recent visit to the Karnaphuli River, a UNB correspondent found that many chars (shoals) emerged on the riverbed near the riverbank from Karnaphuli Bridge to Barek Building area as the river is being clogged by silt.

The navigability of the river has decreased rapidly in recent days affecting the handling of goods at many jetties of the port.

The sand, which was earlier deposited on the riverbanks after dredging work, is pouring into the river again with rainwater.

According to a new survey of the port’s Hydrographic Division, around 3.5 million cubic metres of silt still remained deposited on the riverbed of the Karnaphuli River.

Officials at the Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) said a capital dredging project was taken five years back, aiming to increase the navigability of the river to cut the congestion of lighter vessels at the port and reduce water-logging in the port city.

The Tk 230 crore-project, titled ‘Capital Dredging and Bank Protection with Jetty Facilities in the Karnaphuli River from Sadarghat Jetty to Third Karnaphuli Bridge’, was supposed to be completed by 2013. But it could not be done even three and a half years of the deadline.

“The CPA earlier cancelled the work order of a Malaysian contractor which got the project work as it couldn’t complete it within the stipulated time,” CPA senior hydrolographer Hasibur Rahman told UNB.

The contractor filed a writ petition with a local court against the CPA in this regard, he said, adding that the matter was later sent for arbitration.

The CPA officials said the contractor, Malaysian Maritime and Dredging Corporation (MMDC), has already secured a stay order from the court on the activities of the dredging project, and the CPA now cannot continue capital dredging of the river by hiring a new contractor.

The navigability of the river is thus declining day by day and if the trend continues, goods handling at the port will be at risk in the coming days, they observed.

On April 5, 2011, the CPA awarded the Capital Dredging and Bank Protection Project to the MMDC asking it to complete the work within 20 months. On April 28 of the same year, a deal was signed between the CPA and the Malaysian firm. And the MMDC started its work soon after the agreement in May 2013.

Under the dredging project, the Malaysian firm was supposed to dredge up 3.6 million cubic metres of silt from around two kilometres of riverbed stretching from Sadarghat Jetty to some 500 metres off the Third Karnaphuli Bridge and to construct a 2,615-metre marine driveway with bank protection and a 400-metre jetty.

The CPA extended the project period several times, but the contractor failed to complete the project, said the CPA officials. The CPA finally scrapped the deal in 2014.

And when the CPA moved to complete the project on its own or through another contractor, the MMDC filed a writ petition with the High Court challenging the deal cancellation and got a stay order on it.

Later, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court rejected the HC stay, prompting the MMDC to take the issue to the arbitration board. The board is currently hearing the matter.

However, the MMDC dredged up around 2.23 million cubic metres of silt from the riverbed before the work suspension while 95 percent work of the construction of the jetty and the bank protection was completed.

Source: daily-sun

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