Work now starts in March next year due to row over land acquisition, lack of financing
Despite highest political commitment, the government could not launch the Dhaka Elevated Expressway project on schedule as it could not complete acquisition of required land, while the project contractor could not arrange necessary financing.
Construction of the Tk 8,703-crore ambitious infrastructure was supposed to start by July 19 this year. The government has now shifted its target date to March next year.
Officials of the communications ministry say the authorities have yet to acquire 18 acres of land along the 21-kilometre alignment of the expressway. Besides, it is also facing resistance from the owners of 258 structures between Shahjalal International Airport and Kutubkhali that need to be demolished.
The authorities also could not ensure 25 acres of land to be used as the construction yard in a convenient location.
Moreover, the authorities also could not resolve all of the 17 direct and indirect conflicting points the expressway would encounter with other ongoing infrastructure projects.
On the other side, the project’s contractor Ital-Thai could not yet arrange bank loans to kick-start the work, insiders told The Daily Star.
Earlier on January 19 this year, the government signed a deal with Ital-Thai Development Company Ltd to construct the four-lane expressway from Shahjalal International Airport to Kutubkhali on the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway to be constructed under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project.
As per the agreement, the company must begin construction within six months of signing the deal. At the same time, the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), the implementing authority of the project, must hand over one-third of the project land to the constructor within that period.
Besides, the government has to pay the company a compensation of $10,000 a day if it fails to hand over the land within the stipulated time, July 19. The company, on the other hand, must pay the government liquidated damages of $50,000 a day if the work remains unfinished after the 42-month construction deadline of June 2014.
“We are holding meetings with Ital-Thai and the people having either land or houses on the alignment to resolve the problems,” said Bridge Division Secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, adding that they are going to hand over some land to the firm soon.
“Both the government and the constructor are flexible and are trying to overcome all the hurdles amicably,” observed the secretary.
The Ital-Thai has suspended its primary activities like piling and soil tests it has been doing since signing of the deal. The firm is now conducting an environmental and social study, a pre-requisite for getting fund from donor agencies. Started in June, the study requires eight to 10 months to complete, say experts.
“It’s unlikely that any funding agency will come forward before the study is done,” Prof Shamsul Hoque of Buet’s civil engineering department told The Daily Star.
He said a design for the expressway was prepared but that has to be vetted by an independent consultant who has not yet been appointed.
Meanwhile, a group of residents of Kuril whose land and houses fall on the expressway alignment met the communications minister at Setu Bhaban recently with a proposal to modify alignment at Kuril point.
They said their land and houses will be saved if the alignment is shifted to the western side of the airport road from the eastern side. However, to meet their demand, the authorities must take clearance from the Civil Aviation Authority as the eastern side falls within the air funnel.
The first nine-kilometre segment from airport to Tejgaon will require 96 acres of land, 18 acres of which are owned by private owners. Of the remaining 78 acres, 10 acres belong to the Cantonment Board, four to the Roads and Highways Department and the rest to Bangladesh Railway. The authorities have to remove 258 structures including 16 five-storey and eight six-storey buildings.
The main expressway route starts from Shahjalal International Airport and runs along the rail alignment through Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Moghbazar and Kamalapur Railway Station. It then touches Golapbagh, south of Kamalapur stadium, and east of Jatrabari before connecting Dhaka-Chittagong Highway near Kutubkhali.
Its total length will be 42 kilometres with two elevated links of five kilometres and seven interchanges and 35 ramps of 16 kilometres. Vehicles from different directions will have the options to travel from one place to another.
The first elevated link will connect Manik Mia Avenue-Holy Cross College-Tejgaon Crossing, while the second one will touch Palashi-Kataban-Hatirpool-Hotel Sonargaon (rear)-Moghbazar level crossing. The interchange points are Kuril, Cantonment, Banani, Farmgate, Shaheed Tajuddin Road, Moghbazar and Kamalapur.
There will be 11 toll plazas and toll for end-to-end journey on the expressway will be Tk 125 for cars, jeeps and other light vehicles. The rate will be double for buses, four times for six-wheel trucks, and five times for above six-wheel trucks.
-With The Daily Star input