Ayub Ali with Mahfuja Mukul: Work on the country’s first metro rail project began in Dhaka in June 2016. After that, discussions started about making metro rail in port city Chittagong. The discussion that lasted for five years was much like a rumor. However, in the meantime, various organizations were working like themselves to get the project. On January 4, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the launch of Metrorail in Chittagong. Since then, various foreign companies have been openly interested in getting the mega project.
Four Chinese state-owned enterprises and South Korea’s Development Cooperation (KOICA) have begun high-level government talks to implement the project. The Chittagong Metrorail project is now under discussion due to bargaining between Chinese and Korean companies. In the end, the speculation is going on about who will get the project.
Chinese companies say they will provide the Metrorail project for free. In return, they will have to pay for the smart city project in Mirsarai area. By implementing that project, they want to share the dividend with the government of Bangladesh.
The Korean company Koica says in its proposal that they will study the feasibility of the project at low cost. At the same time, they will ensure the necessary grants for the implementation of the mega project.
According to Chittagong City Corporation (CCC) and related sources, Chinese Railway Construction
Company Limited (CRCC) has proposed to explore the feasibility of a metro rail mega project in Chittagong by mid-2021. It shows that they are interested in doing it at their own expense. Then they do some work.
However, the Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) has recently said that four Chinese state-owned companies have agreed to implement the entire Tk 1.0 trillion projectat free of cost, not just for feasibility study. In the same proposal, the Chinese company wanted to implement another project. That is, they want to make Mirsarai a smart city on the Bay of Bengal starting from the bay terminal of Chittagong port.
The shipbreaking industrial area of Sitakunda will be left out in the middle. Like the developed cities of the world including UAE, Malaysia, Singapore, this smart city will have advanced facilities including hotels and motels. The Chinese company will share the revenue from the Smart City project with the Bangladesh government as per the agreement.
Hasan Bin Shams, chief engineer of the Chittagong Development Authority, told that he had informed the Ministry of Housing and Public Works about the proposal made by the Chinese company. The decision will be taken by the higher authorities of the government.
Asked about China’s proposal, he said, “This smart city will be built around 40-45 kilometers in length and one to one and a half kilometers in width.” Due to the dead end of the sea, there will be no harm if a suburb is formed here. This is a new concept in the country. In this way, cities along the coast have been built in different countries of the world.
He added that China would use the proceeds to pay dividends to the government. It’s not that complicated. Maybe 20 to 22 years they will earn from here. Later the whole project will be explained to the government.
Along with these Chinese organizations, the South Korean Development Cooperation Agency (KOICA) is showing keen interest in implementing the project. Although they did not make any written proposal, the Korean company (KOICA) has estimated the cost of the feasibility study of the Metrorail project at Tk 6 crore. Where it has been said, they will take Tk 26 crore from the Bangladesh government for feasibility study and will give the rest as grant themselves.
Meanwhile, after receiving a written proposal from the CRCC in May 2021, CCC exchanged views with various organizations for launching Metrorail in Chittagong city. Representatives of various governmental and non-governmental organizations including CDA, Chittagong Chamber, Department of Environment, Traffic Department participated in the meeting and gave their views. Later, Shahidul Alam, chief executive officer of CCC, wrote to the local government ministry seeking permission to verify the feasibility of the project against the CRCC’s proposal.
Following the letter, the ministry agreed on January 19 this year to sign a Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) with CCC for feasibility study with the CRCC. But before the MoU was signed, the South Korean development agency Koica suddenly expressed interest in the project. After that, efforts were made to give work to Koica from different places.
When asked, CCC Mayor M Rezaul Karim told, “I made a proposal to the government about the implementation of Metrorail three months ago. The Prime Minister has directed the implementation of Metrorail. We want those who work for Chittagong to be made to work. The higher authorities of the government are working on this. They will implement the project with the organization they like, he added.
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