4-lane project stuck in consultancy row
The launch of Dhaka-Chittagong four-lane highway may be delayed by one year as the scheme is stuck in consultancy glitches and frequent changes of project directors.
This unexpected delay might make the highway one of the most impossible roads to negotiate with as the number of vehicles has already crossed 20,000 a day. With the Eid-ul-Fitr round the corner, more vehicles have clogged the current narrow passage, making the six-hour journey into a 10 to 15-hour one.
The present government revived the Tk 1,655 crore project initiated in 2006 on an urgent basis with a target to complete it in three years. But the project is now in the wilderness as the Pakistani consultant who was supposed to monitor the work suddenly quit in June after his demand for higher fees was turned down.
This has simply stalled the work that was still in its initial stage.
"The selected firms, who have already built their site offices and accommodations for workers, are now sitting idle due to absence of the consultant," said a senior official of the Roads and Highways Department (RHD).
The government has meanwhile changed the project director (PD) for seven times, which many RHD officials say is one of the reasons behind the delay.
"We are going to appoint a new consultant soon so that construction may start by the end of October," said Arifur Rahman Zinna, who has recently been appointed as the new PD.
Additional Chief Engineer Dilip Kumar Guho of RHD was in-charge of the PD for one month as the communications ministry transferred his predecessor Md Mafizul Islam to Rangpur in July.
The Chinese company Sinohydro Corporation and two local companies -- Reza Construction and Tahir Brothers Limited -- are to construct two more lanes measuring 215 kilometres in length in three years adding to the existing two-lane highway.
Ten different construction segments are there in the project, major part of which will be done by the Chinese company.
"We have our offices and manpower but we can't start the work due to the absence of the consultant," an official of a local firm told The Daily Star requesting anonymity.
The government has targeted to upgrade the highway by 2013. The official said it would now take them an extra year to complete the project.
Cutting trees on either side of the highway is another problem to be resolved before construction begins. Some trees are owned by RHD and some by local people.
"We have already settled down the problem," the new PD claimed.
The country's busiest highway linking the prime port city and the capital has become a death trap due to fast increasing vehicular movement and frequent road accidents.
"Considered as the lifeline of the country, the highway also frequently witnesses traffic congestions these days as the average daily traffic has climbed to over 20,000 vehicles. The highway can't take the load," said engineer Iftekhar Kabir of Highway Development and Management Circle of RHD.
According to RHD statistics, the average daily traffic on the highway was 15,277 vehicles in 2008 and 13,720 in 2007.