Communication infrastructure development

Government shying away from many big projects

Experts decry waste of money on feasibility studies

Shamim Rahman

Bonik Barta graph

The government planned to construct a high-speed rail from Dhaka to Chittagong. Bangladesh Railway spent Tk 1.1 billion to carry out the feasibility study. The cost of rail line was estimated Tk 1.3326 trillion or $11.4 billion. The feasibility study was conducted seven years ago. But, officials of the Railways Ministry are now saying that the project will not be implemented for now.     

Bangladesh Railway did the same thing with regard to Dhaka circular rail, another huge project worth Tk 970 billion. Also, the Railway has recently postponed a project worth 617.38 billion to construct Dhaka-Laksham chord line rail. Meanwhile, Bangladesh Bridge Authority has adopted a ‘go slow’ policy about the Dhaka subway project at a cost of Tk 8.7127 trillion.

Despite conducting feasibility studies, the government is moving away from many likely big projects on communication infrastructure. It is being said that these projects will be implemented later. The current economic situation is discussed as the reason for backtracking although a huge amount has already been spent on the feasibility studies. Experts on communication infrastructure regard the spending on feasibility studies as a waste of money.

“Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has its own masterplan on communication infrastructure development.  Dhaka Transport Co-ordination Authority (DTCA) also has masterplan when it comes to undertaking projects in Dhaka. This masterplan is being updated in accordance with the need. It is stated in the masterplan as to which project is suitable or necessary,” Professor Dr Md Hadiuzzaman of Civil Engineering Department at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) told Bonik Barta.

“But, we can see that deviating from the plan, Bangladesh Bridge Authority conducted a study on subway. Railway did the survey on circular road. When an organization itself conducts a survey, this becomes questionable. This has actually happened in cases of these studies. The projects remain in the dark despite the fact that billions of taka were spent on feasibility studies,” he said.  

One metro rail line (Uttara-Motijheel, MRT line-6) has started operation. Work on two other are ongoing. Three more metro lines are in the pipeline. Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited (DMTCL) under the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges is implementing the projects. Bangladesh Bridge Authority, which is under the same ministry, has conducted feasibility study separately for subway, which is similar to metro rail. A sum of Tk 3.18 billion was spent on the study done in 2021. The project was scheduled to be implemented in three phases between 2021 and 2050. From 2021 to 2029, some 109 kilometers of subway were to be constructed. According to the plan, 185 kilometers and 257 kilometers were supposed to be built in the second and third phases. The total cost would be over Tk 8.7127 trillion.

The project was presented at a meeting of the Board of Directors of Bangladesh Bridge Authority in May, 2022. Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader, however, directed to adopt a ‘go slow’ approach.

Quazi Mohammad Ferdous, Chief Engineer of Bangladesh Bridge Authority, claims that Dhaka subway project was neither cancelled nor postponed. “We are looking for investors for the project. We have started talks to primarily construct four lines through public-private partnership,” he told Bonik Barta. Initiator

He also said, “Many people mixed up metro rail with subway. Subway will be constructed in places where metro rail service cannot reach. The project is very important to end the traffic congestion in Dhaka and the Bridge Authority is working to implement it.”

In 2017, Bangladesh Railway conducted a feasibility study to construct Dhaka-Chittagong high-speed rail at a cost of Tk 1.1 billion. The project cost was estimated at Tk 1.3326 billion. Amidst talks about the project, then Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan informed at the beginning of 2022 that the project would not be implemented for now. Explaining the reasons, he said, “Before starting the project, it is necessary to complete some short and mid-term works. The high-speed rail will be constructed only after the completion of these works.”   

Roads and Highways Division carried out a feasibility study in 2013 for the construction of elevated expressway from Dhaka to all the way to Chittagong in order improve communication between the capital and the port city. It cost Tk 980 million to conduct the study. Following wrangling over the financing, the project was cancelled in 2021.

Bangladesh Railway planned to build 81 kilometers of rail line circling Dhaka aiming to reduce the congestion in the capital by enhancing train communication. About Tk 300 million was spent on the feasibility study. According to the study, the estimated cost of the project would be Tk 970 billion. The majority of the circular rail was supposed to be elevated and the remaining part was to be underground. This project also appears to be doomed.       

Professor Dr Hadiuzzaman believes that conducting feasibility studies beyond masterplans is a huge procedural error. “It was wrong to go for full-fledged feasibility studies. These organizations could have lessened the waste of money by opting for pre-feasibility studies.”

“The organizations involved in the implementation of the development projects should conduct feasibility studies in line with the masterplans. Before these studies, our policymakers will have to be more tactical. Our little country with a large population has limited resources. Waste of limited resources cannot be exemplary under any circumstances,” he said.       

More English News

আরও পড়ুন