The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) yesterday signed a deal with an Indian company for widening 39 kilometers out of 51km road from Ashuganj river port to Akhaura land port to four lanes.
Under the deal, Afcons Infrastructure Limited, India will do the widening work for two packages (39.26km) from Ashuganj river port to Dharhar area at the cost of Tk 2,446 crore within three years.
RHD also signed a separate deal with an India-Bangladesh joint venture firm for project management consultancy services at the cost Tk 117.65 crore for five years.
The companies are: RITES Ltd, an Indian government enterprise, and Modern Engineers Planners and Consultants Ltd of Bangladesh.
Arun Alo Chakma, project director of “Improvement of Ashuganj River Port-Sarail-Dharhar-Akhaura Land Port Road as 4-lane National Highway” and officials of the companies signed the contracts at a city hotel.
The contract-signing comes around two and half years after the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) passed the project in July 2017 at the cost of Tk 3,567.85 crore.
Sixty four percent of the project cost would come from an Indian second line of credit singed in March 2016. The project is scheduled to be completed by this year.
However, project authorities have not been able to complete tender process of the third package from Dharhar to Akhaura Land Port (around 10km), and according to project officials, the cost of the project is going to rise.
The project has been conceived as a part of an initiative to establish better communication between Bangladesh and North-eastern part of India, which will ultimately facilitate sub-regional connectivity among South and South-east Asian countries, read project documents.
Although transshipment through the Ashuganj port started for the first time in June 2017, not much could be transported due to poor condition of roads.
Talking at the deal-signing programme, Riva Ganguly Das, high commissioner of India to Bangladesh, said development cooperation is an important aspect of India-Bangladesh relations.
Both governments have identified 46 projects in Bangladesh that would improve connectivity within the country and out of the country, she said.
Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said this is an important connectivity project and hoped the contractors would complete the work timely, maintaining due quality.
Road Transport and Highway Division Secretary Nazrul Islam and RHD chief engineer Ashraful Alam also spoke at the programme.
PROJECT COST TO ESCALATE
Talking to The Daily Star after the programme, Arun Alo Chakma said the firm would start construction work within one month.
Asked about the delay to start work, he said they had to do a lot of work for floating tenders and in all aspects, they had to take approval from Indian authorities concerned, which has taken a lot of time.
He said they have completed pre-tendering work for third package, and already sent it to Indian authorities for concurrent. “We will soon float tendering process,” he said.
Replying to another question, he said the total project cost may increase as they have to spend more than allocated money for land acquisition.
Besides, RHD in 2018 re-scheduled their rates and according to the new estimate, the construction cost would increase, he said.
However, the additional amount of cost could be known after finalisation of tender process of third package, he added.