The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has proposed massive projects to upgrade Bangladesh's infrastructure to boost regional connectivity and unlock the country's trade and investment potentials.
Under the projects, the 190km road from Tangail's Elenga to Sirajganj's Hatikumrul of the Dhaka-Rangpur Highway will be upgraded to four-lane. Roads will be broadened and 17 medium-sized bridges, flyovers and culverts will be constructed to connect with it.
The Tangail-Rangpur road will be part of a 1,741km highway to link Bangladesh with the Asian Highway – a network of 141,000km cross-continental roads. Bangladesh joined the network in 2009.
The RHD's proposed projects will cost Tk15,255 crore – Tk12,000 crore will come from foreign funding and the government will provide the rest. They are expected to be completed by 2020.
The RHD wrote to the Planning Ministry for including the projects in the revised ADP, ministry sources said. They are being scrutinised.
“As part of our economic growth goals, the upcoming projects aim to achieve development by setting up regional and sub-regional trade links,” Road Transport and Highways Division Secretary MAN Siddique told the Dhaka Tribune yesterday.
He said the Tangail-Rangpur Highway was the second phase of the Asian Highway and it would also be part of Sasec (South Asia Sub-Regional Economic Cooperation) and the BBIN (Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, Nepal).
The first phase, involving construction of 70km Joydebpur-Elenga road, is expected to end by 2018. Feasibility study for the third phase – the Rangpur-Burimari road – is under process.
“It will boost regional connectivity and help industrialisation in the north,” Siddique added.
According to the projects proposal, nearly 70% of domestic roads will be part of the Asian Highway but the infrastructure is unsuitable for heavy vehicles while fund crunch dogged upgrade works.
It claims 43,000 vehicles will use the Dhaka-North Bengal route daily by 2020. Currently, 12,000 to 29,000 vehicles use it.
Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Nepal and Sri Lanka set up Sasec in 2001 to promote regional prosperity through improved connectivity, boosting trade and strengthening economic cooperation.
In 2013, the BCIM (Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar) initiative added momentum to connect Kolkata and Kunming via road, through Myanmar and Bangladesh.
According to the World Bank, South Asia’s intra-regional trade accounts for 5% of the total trade, compared to 25% in ASEAN. Greater regional connectivity will boost growth and shared prosperity prospects of South Asia, home to 44% of the world’s poor.