Dhaka-Ashulia elevated expressway: Time, cost gallop even before work starts
Work for the Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway project is yet to formally start but the deadline for the mega project is to expire in just over a month.
The government had approved the project in October 2017 and the deadline for completion of the 24km expressway was set for the end of June, 2022.
The project authorities have sought four more years and an additional Tk 651.72 crore, according to project documents.
If the revision proposal, which is expected to be placed at the next Ecnec meeting on Tuesday, is approved, the project deadline will be extended to June 2026 and the total cost would be Tk 17,553.04 crore.
The authorities said the major reason for the delay in project implementation was the long time Chinese authorities took to approve the $1.1 billion loan.
The Chinese contractor is expected to start construction work formally from next month and as per contract it will get five years and two months for completion of the work, Project Director Shahabuddin Khan told The Daily Star yesterday.
In that case, the deadline for the project may be further extended as the contract period will exceed the project deadline.
"Yes, we may have to extend the deadline further but we will try to complete the work within four years," Shahabuddin said.
Once built, the expressway will connect Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport with Abdullahpur, Ashulia, Baipail and Dhaka Export Processing Zone (DEPZ) on the Nabinagar-Chandra highway.
Vehicles will have to pay toll, said project officials.
It will allow people from 30 districts to enter and exit the capital quickly and easily. It is also expected to boost the country's gross domestic product by 0.21 percent, show project documents.
Another expressway -- the Dhaka Elevated Expressway -- is being constructed to link the airport to the Dhaka-Chattogram highway at Kutubkhali point. The revised schedule for opening the 20km expressway is June 2023.
Once both elevated expressways are operational, people from the country's northern, western and south-western regions will be able to avoid the capital's perennial traffic jam as they will go from one side of the city to another without having to enter city streets.
Trucks and lorries, which are now barred from entering the city during the day to curb traffic jams, will also use the expressways.
Under the project, 10.83km of ramps, two 1.95km long flyovers, 14.28km of four-lane roads and 18km of drains on both sides of the expressway will be built, said project officials.
WHY THE REVISION?
In October 2017, the Ecnec gave the go-ahead to the project at the cost of Tk 16,901.32 crore.
This project was one of 27 for which China assured of providing a loan of $20 billion as per a memorandum of understanding signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping's visit to Dhaka in October 2016.
In August 2017, Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) signed a contract with China National Machinery Import and Export Corporation to implement the project.
But the project work could not begin as the loan application sent to the Chinese authorities in October 2018 remained pending.
The loan agreement was finally signed in October last year and the loan was activated early this month, Shahabuddin Khan said.
However, the contractor firm -- which already hired three Chinese sub-contractors -- will formally start work once the disbursement of the loan starts, the PD said.
"We hope the loan disbursement will start from next month and thus the 62-month contract period will start from then," he added.
He, however, said the contractor has already done preparatory works and 90 percent of the land required for the project has already been acquired.
Although the Chinese government was supposed to give loans for all commercial contracts and three other components, they will provide loans for 85 percent of commercial contracts and would not provide loan for the three components, reads the project document.
So, China is providing Tk 9692.08 crore as loan instead of Tk 10,949.91 crore. The government therefore has to spend around Tk 1,909.54 crore more from its own fund, warranting revision of the project.
Besides, the rise in the US dollar exchange rate to Bangladeshi taka is mentioned as another reason behind the project's revision. Changes in price contingency and increase in salary and other expenditure for the project staffers and related issues are the other reasons.