Land acquisition, transfer and construction of utility infrastructure major impediments
Taking too much time in land acquisition and utility transfer is slowing down the progress of Dhaka Elevated Expressway Project meant to ease the pressure of traffic through the capital.
As per the agreement, the government is responsible for handing over ready land to Italian Thai Development Public Company Limited (ITDPCL), which is implementing the project.
"The first phase work has already taken six years due to delay in land acquisition. So, I don't know how much time it will take for handing over land to the investor for the second and the third phases," Professor Shamsul Hoque of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology vents his disappointment.
The first phase involves the stretch from Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport to Banani Rail Station, the second phase from Banani Rail Station to Moghbazar Rail Crossing and the third phase from Moghbazar Rail Crossing to Kutubkhali linking with Dhaka-Chittagong Highway.
The project's main work began on October 1, 2018 formally. The first phase will be completed by November this year, the second phase by December 2020 and the third (final) phase is scheduled to be completed by March 2022.
"Huge challenges are involved in land acquisition, and transfer and construction of utility infrastructure, which is delaying project implementation," mentions Professor Hoque, engaged with the project as a technical expert.
Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury, who is heading the panel of experts of the country's large infrastructure projects including the DEEP, finds non-availability of funds and lack of cooperation of railway authorities in setting up alignment from Kamalapur Rail Station towards Kutubkhali as the main impediments.
Besides, he says, the project is suffering from various other problems such as financial problem of the investor and multiple changes in the expressway route alignments.
In the development field, there is a term 'CP' (conditions precedence), which means discharge of responsibilities of all stakeholders in implementing development works of a country. "It is poor here (in Bangladesh)," Dr Jamilur tells Dhaka Tribune.
The country's eminent civil engineer, however, goes on to say that project has no flaws in its design but the only issue with it is that it is taking too long.
Under PPP (Public Private Partnership) initiative, the government awarded the DEEP construction to ITDPCL on December 15, 2013.
As of August 2019, physical progress includes construction of 1,333 working pile driving, 306 pile cap, 86 cross beam, column 196 (full) and 134 (partly), 186 eye-guarder casting and 147 span-eye guarders.
The total length of DEEP is 46.73km, including 19.73km mainline.
Meanwhile, the ITDPCL has partnered with two Chinese companies — China Shandong International Economic & Technical Co-Operation Group Ltd (also known as Shandong Hi-Speed Group) and SINOHYDRO (S) PTE, a Chinese state-owned hydropower engineering and construction company.
They also signed loan agreement with China EXIM Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) for financing.
According to loan agreements, China EXIM Bank will finance $461 million or BDT3,918 crore while ICBC will provide $400 million or BDT3,400 crore to implement the project.
Project Director AHMS Aktar informs that delegations of two Chinese banks visited the project site on June 11 this year and held a meeting with officials of the bridge division following signing of the tripartite loan agreement among lenders, investors and the government of Bangladesh.
He hopes that the project work will gain momentum following release of funds from the two Chinese banks.
"Members of delegations of the two Chinese banks have told me that they will release funds soon. We are expecting it by next month," he told Dhaka Tribune.
According to him, the partners are providing equity support to ITDPCL while the government has also disbursed its committed funds, called viability gap funding (VGF).
ITDPCL representative in Bangladesh, Thai citizen Montchai, says that his company will share 49% of total investment and benefits of the project with its partners — Shandong Hi-Speed Group and SINOHYDRO (S) PTE.
Of the project cost, $11,480,100 will be borne by China Shandong International Economic & Technical Co-Operation Group Ltd/ Shandong Hi-Speed Group and $5,180,000 by SINOHYDRO (S) PTE.
Montchai says both the partners have shared equity investments and worked together to organize loan from China EXIM Bank and ICBC.
The total project cost initially was Tk8,940.18 crore, which later rose to Tk3,653.70 crore including the government's VGF proportion worth Tk2,413.84 crore. The estimated construction period was 3.5 years. Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) is supervising the implementation phase.
During a visit last week, Dhaka Tribune found physical work in progress with construction of pile completed in the stretch from Airport to Banani. Presently, the work of setting up eye-guarder and slabs is going on.
The DEEP will be the first big infrastructure project under PPP initiative based on BOOT (Build, Operate, Own and Transfer) module. The ITDPCL will transfer this infrastructure to the government of Bangladesh after 25 years from the date when the agreement was signed.
The government will not share any cost, which may rise due to price hike of raw materials. It will be borne by ITDPCL.
Meanwhile, the government has spent Tk1,700 crore for land acquisition, Tk995 crore for rehabilitation, Tk300 crore for utility relocation and construction.
The ITDPCL will enjoy revenues from traffic for up to 25 years from the date of agreement signing. It will share revenue with the government if per day traffic exceeds 80,000 (every single vehicular movement is one traffic) counts.
Initially, the toll plan was Tk100 for car-microbus, Tk200 for big bus, Tk300 for truck for the ride from Airport to Banani, which experts find not viable. Later, a toll of Tk125 was set for car-microbus, Tk250 for bus, and Tk500 for trucks, for the 26-km expressway.
Motorbikes will not be allowed on Dhaka Elevated Expressway. No overloaded truck will also be allowed. Portable way bridge or weighing measurement equipment will be installed for revenue.
A total of 11 toll plazas will be set up on the entire stretch of the expressway. Of them, five will be on the expressway and the rest on the entry and exit points.
The expressway is expected to reduce traffic inside and surrounding areas of Dhaka. The route will connect Airport, Kuril, Banani, Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Moghbazar, Kamalapur, Sayedabad, Jatrabari-Kutubkhali points with Dhaka-Chittagong Highway.
Initially, this project was due to end between 2010 and 2014, which was later extended up to December 2016. Eventually, the deadline was shifted to 2022.
It will take only 20 minutes from Airport to Kutubkhali once the expressway opens to traffic, experts say.