Setting a rare example, the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has completed a mega project on time, saving around Tk 1,400 crore.
Under the project, three new bridges were constructed and three old bridges on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway were repaired. The project authority had completed the construction of the new bridges on the Shitalakkhya, the Meghna and the Gumti rivers within May last year and completed repair work of the old bridges by December last year.
The project, titled “Kanchpur, Meghna and Gumti 2nd Bridge Construction and Existing Bridges Rehabilitation Project” had a deadline of December 2019.
“We have completed all work within the deadline and will hand them over to the RHD through a programme tomorrow (Sunday),” Project Director Abu Saleh Md Nuruzzaman told The Daily Star yesterday.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, Road Transport and Highway Division Secretary Nazrul Islam, RHD Chief Engineer Ashraful Alam and Japan’s High Commissioner in Dhaka Ito Naoki are expected to join the programme at the Meghna bridge site, he added.
As per the Development Project Proposals (DPP), the cost of the project was set at Tk 8,486.94 crore, of which Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) was supposed to provide Tk 6,429.29 crore.
“But after completion of all work, project cost stood at Tk 7,098.73 crore, meaning we have saved around Tk 1,388 crore,” Nuruzzaman, also an additional chief engineer of RHD, said.
Asked about the reasons behind this success, Nuruzzaman said “Timely implementation of the project was the key.” Additionally, proper planning by the Japanese and steps taken by the government helped complete the work on time, he added.
RHD Chief Engineer Ashraful Alam said preparation at construction and planning stages by the Japanese was well ahead of time.
“Besides, they [the Japanese] were also involved in design, funding and implementation level, which helped complete the project on time,” he told The Daily Star.
Problems involving land acquisition are the main reason most mega projects are delayed, Ashraful said, adding that delay in managing fund for mega projects in many cases cause three to four years to go by forcing the authorities to redesign the project.
In this project, project authority had to acquire only a little amount land and the project area was quite specific and not drawn out over a vast area, he added.
Asked whether this is a rare instance of a mega project’s completing on time, all the while saving a huge amount of money, Ashraful agreed.
“IT’S A BIG RELIEF”
Before the construction of the three new bridges, the otherwise dual carriageway between the port city and the capital shrunk to a single carriageway at the Meghna and Gumti bridges. Though the old Kanchpur bridge is technically a dual carriageway, its width is not adequate.
Given this situation, traffic often crawls to a halt as vehicles approach the bridges. The situation worsens ahead of Eid and during weekends as more vehicles get on the highway.
Travelers and truckers can find themselves stuck on the 192km highway -- the busiest in the country -- for up to 10 to 12 hours, way more than the expected five hours.
But the situation changed after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the new Kacnchpur bridge in March and Meghna and Gumti bridges in May last year. This resulted in traffic jam free roads, even during the Eid.
Repair work on the three old bridges have been completed on January 3 this year and has already been opened for public, Nuruzzaman said, adding that it took some time to hand over the bridges to accommodate schedules of the guests.
“Dhaka-Chattogram journey is quite comfortable now,” Nabit Yeasir, an employee of a private firm in Dhaka, said. Hailing from Chattogram, he is a frequent traveler on the highway.
“I always faced huge traffic jams at Kanchpur and several other places on my way to Chattogram. But things have changed now,” he told this newspaper.
Around 85 to 90 percent export and import are done via Chattogram port, but traffic congestion caused by the narrow bridges resulted in losses for businesses, MS Shekil Chowdhury, former senior vice president of Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) said.
“Construction of the new bridges give us big relief,” he told The Daily Star yesterday.