The implementation of Dhaka Elevated Expressway has been delayed by at least a year, as the project's private investor is still to manage fund and the government is yet to hand over the land required.
Bangladesh Bridge Authority, the implementing agency of the Tk 8,703 crore initiative, has so far extended twice the deadline for commencing the construction, this time up to July this year.
Bangladesh Bridge Authority signed a deal with Ital-Thai Development Public Company in January last year to build the 26-kilometre (length without the ramps) elevated expressway from Shahjalal International Airport to Kutubkhali on Dhaka-Chittagong highway under public-private partnership.
According to the agreement, both parties were required to finish a set of vital preparatory work to start the construction within six months after the deal signing.
Ital-Thai was to carry out the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment, ready a construction yard and arrange funds for the project while the government was to make space for the expressway, relocate the utility service networks and the affected people.
Prof Shamsul Hoque, a member of Dhaka Elevated Expressway's expert team, said the project lost momentum and both parties were lagging behind schedule.
Ital-Thai intended to seek concessionary loan from International Finance Corporation of the World Bank, which requires the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment report as loan precondition. Ital-Thai failed to get the assessment done in time.
It attempted to get the job done by an organisation which turned out to be controversial. Ital-Thai had to look for a new firm, wasting precious time.
In last June, it finally employed Halcrow and a team of Buet for the assessment and the rehabilitation action plan. Prof Mujibur Rahman, leader of the Buet team, said they would need two more months to file the report.
Interested financial institutions too would require around six months to assess the study report and release the fund. This indicates that Ital-Thai would not be able to start work before July this year, when the extended time expires.
It has not been able to find a construction yard yet either, said Prof Shamsul.
The first attempt to employ an independent engineer firm to help finalise the detailed design failed and in a second bid Mott McDonald was appointed as the independent engineer firm around two months ago.
Even though Bangladesh Bridge Authority officials said they have signed a contract with the railway for its land, they were yet to finish acquisition of privately-owned land so that one-third of the land for the first segment of the project (from the airport to Tejgaon) could be handed over to Ital-Thai.
Jasimuddin, land acquisition officer of Dhaka district administration, said they require two months to finish distribution of compensation to the affected people.
The government still needs to acquire 16 acres of private land out of total 96 acres in the nine-kilometre first segment. Of the remaining land, 10 acres belong to the Cantonment Board, four to Roads and Highways Department and the rest to Bangladesh Railway, the handover of which requires separate arrangements.
Land price would be calculated on the basis of the average of all recorded land prices in the locality during 2011. The affected land owners would also get an additional 50 percent of the estimated price and cost of structures on their land.
The authorities have to remove a total of 258 structures including one-storey to seven-storey buildings, under-construction buildings, semi-concrete and tin-roofed structures on the 96 acres of land. There were 16 five-story and eight six-story buildings there.
The project is to be completed within 42 months, according to the contract.
Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, head of the project's technical committee, said it seemed to him that it was a low-priority project in the present situation.
The Daily Star contacted Ital-Thai for its comments and the company said it would come up with an explanation. The company did not contact the paper later on.