Mahfuz Emran: This is not the first case of construction of four lanes in the country. Dhaka-Chittagong or Dhaka-Mymensingh four lane project has been implemented earlier. People are also enjoying the benefits of these highways. This time the new four lanes are under the ‘Sylhet-Charkhai-Sheola highway development’ project. The length of this highway will be only 42.98 kilometers. Where the total cost proposed is Tk 3,872 crore 32 lakh 38 thousand. The construction cost per kilometer will be more than Tk 90 crore on an average.
Of this, the World Bank loan is Tk 2,604 crore and government financing is Tk 1,268 crore.
However, questions have been raised about the appointment of project consultants. Hundreds of crores of taka of consultants are being sought for the implementation of such projects. The Road Transport and Highways Department has requested a consultancy cost of Tk 109.93 crore for the construction of this 43 km long highway from Sylhet Sadar to Sheola. Out of this money, there is a plan to spend Tk 32 crore from the public sector and Tk 77.93 crore from the World Bank loan.
At the same time, Tk 2.56 crore has been requested for foreign training sector.
The Planning Commission has raised questions about the requirement to spend a lot of money on the appointment of consultants for the implementation of the project. Economists are also questioning its rationale. Their advice, instead of taking foreign consultants for money, it is the right decision to take the consultant of BUET (Bangladesh University of Engineering) at low cost.
Economists feel that foreign training should be avoided in the construction of four lanes. Training can be taken from such projects that have been implemented in the past (Dhaka-Chittagong or Dhaka-Mymensingh four lane).
Directorate of Roads and Public Ways (SOAZ) will implement the ‘Sylhet-Charkhai-Sheola Highway Development’ project from July 2022 to June 2027.
Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh (PRIB) Executive Director and BRAC Bank Chairman Economist Dr. Ahsan H Mansoor told that the consultancy cost of Tk 110 crore for the construction of 43 km road is too high. In the global context, we have to work selectively in the ongoing pressure on the country’s economy. Instead of hiring a foreign consultant for a lot of money, you can work with a local consultant for less money.
Our BUET consultants can execute these construction projects well. In this, the work of Tk 110 crore will be done for only Tk 10 to Tk 20 crore. Foreign consultants should be excluded here. It is not a complicated project.
Regarding foreign training in road construction, the former official of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said that there is no need to go abroad to learn four-lane construction. There are many four lanes in the country. Dhaka-Chittagong, Dhaka-Mymensingh four lanes have been implemented. At present, the construction of four lanes from Elenga to Rangpur is going on. Knowledge can be taken from these four lane projects without going abroad. There is much to learn here. Because, this is where foreign consultants are working. Training can be taken from them now.
The Planning Commission has opined that it is ‘not reasonable’ to spend so much money on the construction of only 42.98 kilometers of roads and appoint consultants. The commission agreed to rationalize cost reduction by reviewing the manpower and cost of the consultancy sector. It has even been suggested to eliminate unnecessary expenditure in some sectors.
In the meantime, a Project Evaluation Committee (PEC) meeting was held virtually on August 24 under the chairmanship of Satyajit Karmakar, Member (Secretary) of the Physical Infrastructure Division of the Planning Commission regarding the proposed project. In the meeting, it was asked to reduce the cost of foreign training along with the cost of consultants. In the project, resources of Tk 2.56 crore have been allocated to the government sector for foreign training and Tk 30 lakh to the GOB sector for local training; Which is said to reduce logically.
After detailed discussion in the PEC meeting, it was suggested to reduce the foreign training expenditure from Tk 2.56 crore to Tk 50 lakh. However, Satyajit Karmakar did not agree to comment on the internal affairs of the meeting.
The total cost of construction of 42.98 km road under the project is proposed to be Tk 3,872 crore 32 lakh 38 thousand. Where the average cost per kilometer will be more than Tk 90 crore. Out of the total expenditure, the World Bank loan is Tk 2,604 crore and government funding is Tk 1,268 crore.
There are also inconsistencies in the sub-proposals (component-proposals) related to vehicle purchase of the project. After proposing an allocation of Tk 10.71 core for buying a car or motor vehicle, Tk 4.81 crore has been requested for car rental in a separate sub-proposal. But after buying a car, why so much money will be needed for car rental, it is not clarified.
According to the Planning Commission, among several anomalies, the issues of car purchase and car rental are also questionable. Questions were also raised in the PEC meeting. Among the vehicles, it is proposed to buy six jeep cars at a cost of Tk 63 million, four pickups at a cost of Tk 232 million, a microbus at a cost of Tk 45 lakh, and six motorcycles at a cost of Tk 12 lakh.
In the project proposal, an estimate of Tk 28 crore has been made in the ‘other important’ sector and Tk 7.77 crore in the daily work sector. But the project proposal does not explain what other important sectors are or what work will be done under this sector. Even what is meant by daily work is not clear.
In this situation, the commission has given the opinion to clearly include in the project proposal what work in which sector, how much work and how much money has been allocated for any work in the implementation of the project. As per the recommendation of Finance Department Development Project Manpower Determination Committee, it was agreed in the PEC meeting to determine the number and cost of vehicles based on the number of drivers and accordingly determine the cost of oil and lubricant, gas and fuel.
According to Sawaz, the road leading to Sadar, Dakshin Surma, Golapganj and Biyani bazar upazilas of Sylhet district will be upgraded to six lanes.
The objectives of the project are as follows: To speed up and ease the movement of passengers and freight from Sylhet Sadar to Sheola Land Port, to ensure the safety of local vehicles and slow-moving vehicles by creating separate service lanes on both sides of the highway, to facilitate the movement of vulnerable or vulnerable road users (elderly, women, ensuring safe roads for children and disabled persons) and reducing road accidents is one of the objectives of this project.
Simultaneously, through the implementation of the project Bangladesh-Bhutan-India or BBIN (Bangladesh-Bhutan-India-Nepal) Corridor, SASEC (South Asian Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation) Corridor, Asian Highway, BIMSTEC Corridor, BCIM (Bangladesh-China-India) -Myanmar) Corridor and the expansion of regional connectivity along the SAARC Corridor to increase trade and contribute to the country’s economic growth.
Sylhet-Charkhai-Sheola highway is an important part of BCIM Corridor and SASEC Corridor-5. The BCIM Corridor will connect China’s Yunnan Province, Bangladesh, Myanmar and India’s Northeast ‘Seven Sisters’. SASEC Corridor-5 will connect central and northeastern Bangladesh with the northeastern states of India. This project is also a sub-project under BBIN Cargo Route.
These International Economic Corridors will ensure international traffic at several land and sea ports. Cross-border movement of goods and passengers will be expanded through the corridors. The issue of ensuring the safety of passenger and cargo vehicles has also come up in the project.
The World Bank has been named as the lender in the proposed project. The ERD (Internal Resources Department) and the Directorate of Social Affairs will brief the PEC meeting on the latest progress in the loan agreement between the Government of Bangladesh and the World Bank. In the proposed project, an estimate of Tk 498.81 crore has been made for acquisition of 194.13 acres of land and Tk 25 crore for rehabilitation.
An estimate of Tk 174.85 crore has been made for the work of 44.5 million cubic meters of earth (to embank the road) in the project. It is not clear how high the road embankment will be Tk 809.72 crore for construction of 42.98 km six-lane pavement with service lanes on both sides of the road (service lanes 4.8 and 5.5 meters wide on both sides and main pavement median 7.3 meters wide on both sides) and 73.83 km median and Tk 154.16 crore for construction of lane-divider
Although estimates have been made, ‘Engineer’s Estimate’ for construction of pavement and median and lane-dividers has not been included in the DPP.
Tk 150 crore have been proposed for utility relocation in the proposed project. The amount and cost of utility transfer has not been determined in the joint survey and joint signature of the utility company and the supplier company. Tk 70.11 crore has been proposed in the physical contingency sector at the rate of 2 percent.
Tk 280.45 crore at the rate of 8 percent in the price contingency sector and Tk 351.53 crore have been proposed in the price adjustment sector. The organization has not made it clear in the project proposal on what basis the cost of these sectors has been determined.
When asked about the appointment of consultants and foreign training in the four-lane construction proposed by the Road Transport and Highways Department, Chief Engineer AKM Monir Hossain Pathan said that it is not possible for me to know about all the projects. I have to look at many projects.
However, the additional chief engineer of R&D (Sylhet Zone) Md. Fazle Rabbidid not receive even the callseven after our repeated try.
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