The government yesterday took up a Tk 848.3 crore project to widen a road that would broaden bilateral trade between India and Bangladesh.
It came as the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved seven projects involving Tk 3,461 crore.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who is also the Ecnec chairperson, presided over the meeting through video-conferencing from the Gono Bhaban.
The widening of the 38km Baraiyerhat-Hiako-Ramgarh road from 5.5 metres now to 7.3 metres in Ramgarh upazila under Khagrachhari district would be performed by the Roads and Highways Department between January 2020 and June 2022.
India would provide Tk 581.2 crore for the project from its third line of credit extended to Bangladesh, which would bear the rest of the cost.
The project would contribute to establishing road network between the Chattogram port and the Ramgarh land port and open the door for two-way trade between Bangladesh and India through Sabram/Ramgarh land port, according to the project documents.
The proposed road is 72km off from the Chattogram port and 201km off from Dhaka.
The project, which was included in the list of the new unapproved projects in the annual development programme last fiscal year, is expected to widen the import and export activities between India and Bangladesh and improve the socio-economic conditions of the people in the area.
The implementation of the project would establish a safe, developed and time- and cost-efficient road transport network between the two countries, according to the project proposal.
"Two-way commerce between the two countries would expand thanks to the project. This would benefit both India and Bangladesh," said Planning Minister MA Mannan, adding that Bangladesh would earn revenue from taxes.
In July, Bangladesh decided to charge Tk 2 per tonne per kilometre in road usage fees for Indian goods that would be transshipped using Bangladesh's territory.
The road fee issue surfaced as India's first-ever trial run of transshipment of goods to its north-eastern states through the Chattogram port and Akhaura land port completed in July.
The Chattogram Custom House collected seven types of tariffs on Indian goods at the time. The charges include Tk 30 for document processing per consignment, Tk 20 per tonne of goods for transshipment, Tk 100 per tonne as security charge, Tk 50 per tonne as escort charge, Tk 100 for other administrative charges and Tk 254 per container for scanning at the time.
Two rest houses were supposed to be built at Tk 8 crore under the project. But the prime minister dropped the rest house component, saying they should not be part of a road project, Mannan said.
The prime minister suggested drawing up another project and finding out the areas where rest houses should be built.
The route has been used for decades to carry out trade with Tripura of India, Mannan said.
India is already financing a project that is building a bridge over the Feni river.
Ecnec also approved the Emergency Multi-sector Rohingya Crisis Response Project (First revision). The disaster management and relief ministry are implementing the Tk 599 crore-project, which is bankrolled by the World Bank.
The project aims at engaging Rohingyas displaced from Myanmar in productive activities, improving service quality at camps and boosting their resilience.
Under the project, 110,000 Rohingyas, mainly women, minor children, old and disabled would be employed in providing community services. This would increase the resiliency of 550,000 people, project documents showed.
Another 75,000 Rohingyas would be directly employed at community works and this will expand basic services among 375,000 people.
The youth and women would be given priority in labour-intensive work.
The project is being revised as the World Bank has provided an additional $30 million in grant to strengthen the activities that would improve the resilience of the Rohingyas and expand community coverage.
The deadline of the project has been increased to June 2023 from August 2021. The tenure of individual consultants and consulting agency has also been expanded.
Ecnec gave consent to the Tk 524.4 crore Daudkandi-Goalmari-Srirayerchar (Cumilla)-Matlab Uttar (Chhengarchar) District Highway widening project.
The project would put in place a developed and safe road network between Daudkandi upazila under Cumilla and Matlab Uttar of Chandpur.
In another project, the Roads and Highways Department would spend Tk 530.3 crore to build 49 concrete bridges, replacing 24 old and risky concrete bridges and 25 bailey bridges in the Khulna Road Zone. The project is scheduled to complete by December 2022.
Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) would execute a project to safeguard the banks of the Tentulia river and carry out dredging from the Dhulia Launch terminal under Bauphal upazila in Patuakhali to Durgapasha in Bakerganj under Barishal.
The Tk 712.2 crore-project is aimed at protecting the area from river erosion. The project would be completed by June 2022.
BWDB is going to implement the second phase of a project that looks to eliminate water-logging created by the Kopotakkho river in Jessore, Jhenaidah, Satkhira and Khulna between April 2020 and June 2024.
The Tk 531.1 crore-project would control the flood in the project areas, develop the fisheries sector, improve drainage and river transport system, prevent penetration of saline water and boost agriculture production by providing irrigation facilities.
The prime minister also instructed the planning ministry to drop the matter of making a road toll-free as the government needs funds to build and maintain the transport network.