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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/bn/বসিলা-সেতু-ভাঙার-ভাবনা-1627471156

 

Published:  July 28, 2021 17:19:16

বসিলা সেতু ভাঙার ভাবনা

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রাজধানীর কেরানীগঞ্জের বসিলা সেতু ভেঙ্গে উচ্চতা বাড়িয়ে নতুন করে তৈরির কথা ভাবছে সরকার।

বিষয়টি বুধবার জাতীয় অর্থনৈতিক পরিষদের নির্বাহী কমিটির (একনেক) বৈঠকেও আলোচনা হয়েছে। খবর বিডিনিউজ টোয়েন্টিফোর ডটকম-এর।

প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনার সভাপতিত্বে একনেক বৈঠকের পর ভার্চুয়াল সংবাদ সম্মেলনে এসে এ কথা জানিয়েছেন নবনিযুক্ত পরিকল্পনা প্রতিমন্ত্রী ড. শামসুল আলম।

এনইসি সম্মেলন কক্ষে অনুষ্ঠিত একনেক বৈঠকে প্রধানমন্ত্রী গণভবন থেকে ভিডিও কনফারেন্সের মাধ্যমে যুক্ত হন।

সংবাদ সম্মেলনে প্রতিমন্ত্রী বলেন, বৈঠকে ‘দেশের দক্ষিণাঞ্চলে আয়রন ব্রিজ পুনঃনির্মাণ-পুনর্বাসন (১ম সংশোধিত)’ শীর্ষক একটি প্রকল্প নিয়ে আলোচনার সময় এসব কথার অবতারণা হয়। প্রধানমন্ত্রী এটি আগেও বহুবার বলেছেন, (আজ) আবারও জোর দিয়ে বলেছেন, যে আমরা কালভার্ট, সেতু তৈরি করতে গিয়ে নৌপথ অচল করে ফেলেছি।”

তিনি বলেন, “আপনারা জানেন বসিলা সেতুটি একটি গুরুত্বপূর্ণ নদীর ওপর হয়েছে। এত গুরুত্বপূর্ণ নদী কিন্তু এখানে এখন বর্ষাকালে কার্গোগুলো আসতে পারে না। ২০০৮ সালে উদ্বোধন করা এই সেতুটি এখন আবার ভাঙার কথা চিন্তা করা হচ্ছে, এটা যথাযথ উঁচু করার জন্য। এটা তো জাতীয় অপচয়।”

প্রতিমন্ত্রী বলেন, “বৈঠকে এই প্রসঙ্গ টেনে প্রধানমন্ত্রী বলেছেন পণ্যবাহী নৌকাসহ বিভিন্ন নৌকা যেন চলাচল করতে পারে এমন উঁচু করে সেতু তৈরি করতে হবে। আমাদের জোয়ারভাটার দেশ, পানি বাড়ে কমে। তাই প্রয়োজনে বিআইডব্লিউটিএর অনুমতি নিয়ে এটা সতর্ক হয়ে করতে হবে।“

বৈঠকে প্রধানমন্ত্রীর আরও কয়েকটি নির্দেশনা সংবাদ সম্মেলনে তুলে ধরেন পরিকল্পনামন্ত্রী এম এ মান্নান।

তিনি বলেন, “বৈঠকে প্রধানমন্ত্রী সংশ্লিষ্ট একটি প্রকল্প অনুমোদন দেওয়ার সময় সড়ক ও জনপথ অধিদপ্তরের উদ্দেশে বলেছেন, এখন থেকে নতুন রাস্তাঘাট বা রাস্তার ওপর ইউলুপ এবং আন্ডারপাস-ওভারপাস এমনভাবে বানাবেন যাতে যানবাহন এবং সাধারণ মানুষ খুব সহজে চলাচল করতে পারে। মানুষ যেন সহজে রাস্তা পার হতে পারে।


“প্রধানমন্ত্রী বলেছেন, সম্প্রতি বিদেশ থেকে প্রায় ৫ লাখ প্রবাসী দেশে ফিরে এসেছেন। তাদের অনানুষ্ঠানিক খাতে কর্মসংস্থান সৃজনে সহায়ক একটি প্রকল্প গ্রহণ করা হয়েছে। তাদের জন্য যেন শোভন কর্মসংস্থান নিশ্চিত করা হয়। তারা আমাদের অনেক দিয়েছেন। এবার আমরা তাদের কিছু ফিরিয়ে দিতে চাই। প্রয়োজেন যারা আবারও বিদেশ যেতে চায় তার ব্যবস্থা করার ওপরও গুরুত্বারোপ করেন তিনি।”

মন্ত্রী বলেন, “বৈঠকে মহিলাদের জেলা পর্যায়ে কম্পিউটার প্রশিক্ষণের একটি প্রকল্প অনুমোদনের সময় এ ধরনের প্রকল্প আরও করার নির্দেশ দিয়েছেন। প্রধানমন্ত্রী প্রয়োজনে আরও বড় পরিসরে এ ধরনের প্রশিক্ষণের উদ্যোগ নিতে মহিলা ও শিশু বিষয়ক মন্ত্রণালয়কে প্রকল্প না নিয়ে এটি রাজস্ব খাতে দিয়ে দেওয়ার উদ্যোগ নিতে নির্দেশ দেন। যাতে প্রতিবছর বাজেটে এই খাতের জন্য বরাদ্দ রাখে। আর একবছর বা দুই বছর পর পর যেন তারা না আসে।”

“এ জন্য কার্যকর মহিলা সংস্থা হওয়া উচিত বলে মনে করেন প্রধানমন্ত্রী,” বলেন মন্ত্রী।

এমন এ মান্নান বলেন, “বৈঠকে ঠাকুরগাঁওয়ের বিসিক খাদ্য প্রক্রিয়াজাতকরণ শিল্পনগরী শীর্ষক প্রকল্পে খাদ্য প্রক্রিয়াকরণের কথা বলা হলেও দুগ্ধ প্রক্রিয়াকরণ অন্তর্ভুক্ত করা হয়নি। এই প্রকল্পে দুগ্ধ প্রক্রিয়াকরণ যোগ করার নির্দেশ দিয়েছেন তিনি।

“প্রধানমন্ত্রী আরও বলেছেন মুন্সিগঞ্জে অনেক বালু মহাল গড়ে উঠেছে। এই বালু পরিকল্পিতভাবে স্থানান্তরের নির্দেশ দিয়ে প্রধানমন্ত্রী বলেছেন, যে যেভাবে পারে বালুর ব্যবসা শুরু করে দেবে, এটা ঠিক নয়।”

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১২ জেলায় হাই-টেক পার্ক স্থাপনে অর্থায়ন করছে ভারত

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দেশের ১২ জেলায় হাই-টেক পার্ক স্থাপন প্রকল্পে অর্থায়ন করছে ভারত। এ তথ্য জানিয়েছেন তথ্য ও প্রযুক্তি প্রতিমন্ত্রী জুনাইদ আহমেদ পলক। আগামী দিনে দেশের আইসিটি সেক্টরে ভারতের সহযোগিতা আরও প্রসারিত হবে বলে আশা প্রকাশ করেন তিনি।

মঙ্গলবার (২৭ জুলাই) ‘আইসিটিতে বাংলাদেশ-ভারত সহযোগিতা সম্প্রসারণ’ শীর্ষক এক ভার্চুয়াল সভায় প্রতিমন্ত্রী এ তথ্য জানান। বাংলাদেশ হাই-টেক পার্ক কর্তৃপক্ষ এ সভার আয়োজন করে।

সভায় প্রধান অতিথির বক্তব্যে জুনাইদ আহমেদ পলক বাংলাদেশের মহান স্বাধীনতা যুদ্ধে ভারতের অসামান্য অবদান কৃতজ্ঞতার সঙ্গে স্মরণ করেন। 

তিনি বলেন, ‘নরেন্দ্র মোদির সরকার ক্ষমতায় আসার পরে নানা অমীমাংসিত সমস্যার দ্রুত নিষ্পত্তিসহ বিভিন্ন ক্ষেত্রে সহযোগিতা আরও প্রসারিত হয়েছে। বর্তমানে দুই দেশের বাণিজ্য ঘাটতি হ্রাস পেয়েছে। বিভিন্ন ক্ষেত্রে, বিশেষ করে আইসিটি সেক্টরে ভারতের বিনিয়োগ বৃদ্ধি পেয়েছে। বর্তমানে দেশের ১২ জেলায় হাই-টেক পার্ক স্থাপন প্রকল্পে ভারত অর্থায়ন করছে।’

পলক বলেন, ‌‘এ বছরের ২৭ মার্চ ভারতের প্রধানমন্ত্রী নরেন্দ্র মোদি ও বাংলাদেশের প্রধানমন্ত্রী শেখ হাসিনার উপস্থিতিতে বাংলাদেশ-ভারত ডিজিটাল সার্ভিস অ্যান্ড এমপ্লয়মেন্ট ট্রেনিং সেন্টার (বিডিসেট) নামক একটি প্রকল্প স্থাপনে ভারত অনুদান দেবে মর্মে একটি সমঝোতা স্মারক স্বাক্ষরিত হয়েছে।’

পলক আরও বলেন, ‘এ সমঝোতার আওতায় ডিজিটাল বাংলাদেশ বিনির্মাণ ও আইসিটি শিল্পের বিকাশে তথ্য ও যোগাযোগ প্রযুক্তি বিভাগের উদ্যোগে বাংলাদেশ হাই-টেক পার্ক কর্তৃপক্ষের তত্ত্বাবধানে ২৫ কোটি টাকা ভারতীয় অনুদান দেওয়া হবে। এই প্রকল্পে মোট ৬১.০২৫৯ কোটি টাকা ব্যয় করা হবে। যার বাকি অংশ (৩৬.০২৫৯ কোটি টাকা) সরকারের নিজস্ব তহবিল থেকে অর্থায়ন করা হবে।’

প্রতিমন্ত্রী বলেন, ‘এখান থেকে আগামী দুই বছরে প্রায় আড়াই হাজার প্রশিক্ষণার্থী প্রশিক্ষণ গ্রহণ করবে। ইন্টারনেট অব থিংস, মেশিন লার্নিং, রোবোটিক্স, আর্টিফিশিয়াল ইন্টেলিজেন্স, এক্সটেনডেড রিয়ালিটি ও অন্যান্য উচ্চতর বিষয়ে প্রশিক্ষণ দেওয়া হবে। এছাড়া ৩০ জনকে ছয় মাসের জন্য ভারতে আইসিটির ওপর উচ্চতর প্রশিক্ষণের জন্য পাঠানো  হবে।’

অদূর ভবিষ্যতে ভারত তাদের সহযোগিতার ক্ষেত্র বাংলাদেশে আরও প্রসারিত করবে বলে পলক আশা প্রকাশ করেন।

সভার সঞ্চালনায় ছিলেন- ইলেক্ট্রনিক্স অ্যান্ড কম্পিউটার সফটওয়্যার এক্সপোর্ট প্রোমোশন কাউন্সিলের এক্সিকিউটিভ ডাইরেক্টর গুরমিত সিং। স্বাগত বক্তব্য দেন প্রতিষ্ঠানটির চেয়ারম্যান স্বন্দীপ নারুলা ও বাংলাদেশ হাই-টেক পার্ক কর্তৃপক্ষের ব্যবস্থাপনা পরিচালক বিকর্ণ কুমার ঘোষ।

সভায় মূল প্রবন্ধ উপস্থাপন করেন ভারতীয় হাইকমিশনার বিক্রম কুমার দোরাইস্বামী। সভাপতিত্ব করেন আইসিটি বিভাগের সিনিয়র সচিব এন এম জিয়াউল আলম।

সভায় অন্যান্যের মধ্যে বক্তব্য রাখেন বেসিসের সভাপতি সৈয়দ আলমাস কবীর, বাক্কোর সভাপতি ওয়াহিদ শরিফ, বাংলাদেশ কম্পিউটার সমিতির সভাপতি শহীদ উল মুনির, উইয়ের সভাপতি নাসিমা আক্তার নিশাসহ প্রমুখ।

অনুষ্ঠানের শেষ ধাপে বাংলাদেশ হাই-টেক পার্ক কর্তৃপক্ষের মার্কেটিং কনসালটেন্ট তামজিদ বিন আহমেদের সঞ্চালনায় বিটুবি নেটওয়ার্কিং সেশনে দুই দেশের আইটি ইন্ডাস্ট্রির কোম্পানিগুলোর মধ্যে পারস্পরিক ব্যবসায়িক স্বার্থ সংশ্লিষ্ট বিষয়ে উন্মুক্ত আলোচনা হয়। 

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https://www.dhakatribune.com/bangladesh/2021/07/31/major-railway-expansion-projects-in-limbo

Major railway expansion projects in limbo

 Shohel Mamun

 Published at 08:08 pm July 31st, 2021

China decides not to fund projects as proposed costs get revised

Three “special priority” railway expansion initiatives have plunged into uncertainty as China has decided not to fund the projects following a downward re-evaluation of the proposed costs.

According to sources, one of the main reasons behind China’s newfound reluctance is that once completed, these projects will boost Bangladesh’s trade with India. 

China has hinted that it is India which has influenced the local authorities to reevaluate the construction prices in order to make them “substandard.”       

The projects in question are Joydebpur-Ishwardi dual-gauge double-line project, Akhaura-Sylhet dual gauge project and Joydebpur-Jamalpur dual-gauge project. 

They were listed in a memorandum of understanding (MoU) signed during Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to Bangladesh in 2016 to the tune of $3.337 billion. 

According to the MoU, the Chinese government would pay for the construction of the projects, which amount to roughly 80% of the total cost.

The rest of the expenses were to be borne by the Bangladesh government.

Re-evaluation of costs 

The Joydebpur-Ishwardi dual-gauge double-line and Akhaura-Sylhet dual gauge rail expansion projects got the approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) in 2018 and 2019 respectively.

However, a committee, formed by the Prime Minister’s Office (PMO), after an investigation, found the estimated prices to be quite high and directed Bangladesh Railways (BR) to cut down the costs. 

As per the committee recommendations, the expected $1.045 billion costs for the Joydebpur-Ishwardi rail link development were to be shaved by 12.91%, and the $1.272 billion proposed budget for the Akhaura-Sylhet dual gauge project was to be brought down by 20.8% – leading to savings of nearly $572 million. 

Following these developments, the Chinese government, through its embassy in Dhaka, said it would not fund the Joydebpur-Ishwardi double-line project owing to a “lack of in-depth preliminary work and insufficient feasibility study.”

Officials, seeking anonymity, said that the embassy had recently shared its decision with the railway authorities through the Economic Relations Division (ERD). 

Meanwhile, the Chinese contractors for the Joydebpur-Ishwardi double-line and Akhaura-Sylhet dual gauge rail projects informed the local authorities that they would also not work on the projects following the PMO’s downward revision of costs.

Speaking to Dhaka Tribune, BR Director General Dhirendra Nath Mazumder said: “The future of these projects is now uncertain as the Chinese construction companies have already informed us that they don’t agree with the revised expenditures and they would like to opt out from the development works.”

He said that the PMO would be informed in this regard immediately for further instructions. 

Mohammad Golam Mostafa, project director of the Joydebpur-Ishwardi double-line, told Dhaka Tribune that the authorities would send a letter to the construction firms again to have them “reconsider their decision.”

“After getting their opinion we will send a letter to the PMO listing all concerns,” he added.

China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation (CCECC) was selected for constructing the Joydebpur-Ishwardi double-line at a contract price of $1.158 billion and China Railway Construction Bridge Bureau Group Company (CRBG) was selected for Akhaura-Sylhet dual gauge project with $1.497 billion as contract price through direct procurement method without any competitive bidding.

Contacted by Dhaka Tribune, CCECC officials said that they had already written to the local authorities justifying their “reasonable” proposed costs.

The PMO also directed the relevant authorities to revise the cost of the $1.061 billion Joydebpur-Jamalpur dual-gauge conversion rail project.

The project, which is yet to be approved, was also supposed to be funded by China under a G2G arrangement.

Following the PMO orders, the revision committee suggested reducing the cost of the billion-dollar project by Tk1,851.28 crore. 

In G2G projects with China, conditions for appointing contractors, project cost evaluation processes, and funding are more or less the same, said BR officials.

Thus the Joydebpur-Jamalpur dual gauge project may also lose funding from China if the proposed costs are revised and slashed by Bangladeshi authorities, they added.

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https://www.thedailystar.net/business/economy/industries/investments/news/batb-invest-tk-322cr-expansion-2140471

BATB to invest Tk 322cr for expansion

 

Star Business Report

Fri Jul 30, 2021 12:00 AM

British American Tobacco Bangladesh (BATB) has made its second investment announcement in a span of six months, saying it was aimed at expanding for meeting growing demand from abroad.

The cigarette maker yesterday made public plans over a Tk 322 crore investment in its Savar factory.

Last February, it announced investing Tk 192.50 crore to increase its manufacturing capacity.

Commercial operations at the plant is expected to start within October.

As demand from abroad is rising, the investment is being increased step by step, said Company Secretary Md Azizur Rahman, adding that excess production capacity in absence of demand would have impacted cash flows.

"We have to compete with Singapore, Malaysia and other developed nations but we are capable enough to compete so our demand is rising," he said.

The company in recent months sent products to China, the Maldives and other countries despite the challenges of the pandemic, he said.

"We are meeting our finance demand from internal sources mainly. If needed we will go to banks," said Rahman.

"Our new planned expansion activities will take around one year for commercial operations to launch because there are many things to do," he said.

"If our export surges then it would impact the whole economy positively because its linkage industry also will get a boost," he added.

Meanwhile, the company disclosed its first half yearly financial reports for 2021. Its net revenue rose 25 per cent to Tk 3,841 crore from Tk 3,070 crore.

During the same period, its profits rose 43 per cent to Tk 862 crore from Tk 600 crore.

Profits were driven by growth in volume offset by growth in operating expenses, said its financial report.

Stocks of the cigarette maker rose 0.27 per cent to Tk 567 yesterday. 

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If importing countries have no issue then its fine for us to earn hard currency exporting poison. Where from are they planning to source additional requirements of tobacco, I hope not by expanding their cultivation in Bangladesh.  

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/trade/how-bangladesh-is-looking-to-upgrade-railway-infrastructure-for-boosting-regional-trade-1627620900

How Bangladesh is looking to upgrade railway infrastructure for boosting regional trade

 

Published:  July 30, 2021 10:50:20 | Updated:  July 30, 2021 18:26:14

In a bid to boost regional trade, the government is emphasising railway communication infrastructure by taking up a long-term project to upgrade all rail lines in Bangladesh to dual gauge, bdnews24.com reports.

As part of the plan, the existing meter gauge line in the country's south-eastern regions will be overhauled first. For this, the railway line from Dhaka to Dohazari in Cox's Bazar will be converted into dual gauge to accommodate both broad and meter gauge trains.

The line will also create a direct link between Dhaka and the deep seaport in Cox's Bazar's Matarbari.

After that, initiatives are being taken to increase connectivity and trade with countries in the region, including Myanmar, India, China, Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore, through Ghumdhum via Ramu.

In the meantime, a feasibility study for the implementation of the Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar railway project is being carried out at a cost of Tk 2.12 billion, with financial assistance from the Asian Development Bank or ADB.

The project, which started in 2015, was scheduled to be completed this year. But due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, a proposal has been sent to the Planning Commission to finish it next year, railway ministry officials said.

Addressing the project, Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said, “We'll take up an umbrella project with four to five initiatives. As there's now a single line of meter gauge from Chattogram to Dohazari, a project will be undertaken to turn it into dual line and broad gauge."

"The 135-km railway line from Laksham to Chattogram is currently in meter gauge. A separate project will be pursued to turn it into broad and dual gauge. There will be a package from Tongi to Akhaura and another from Tongi to Bhairab Bridge. In this way, the entire railway line from Dhaka to Cox's Bazar will be converted to dual and broad gauge.”

"Neighbouring Myanmar, India, China, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and many more countries will be connected to it and discussions are ongoing to increase greater regional connectivity and trade. We'll implement these projects in a planned manner as part of our own preparations to build internal infrastructure with trade in mind.”

Work is already underway to construct a dual gauge over the Jamuna River and a broad gauge over the Padma, according to Sujan. "Basically, we're converting all our railways to broad gauge.”

On Jun 15, a virtual discussion was held on the project's feasibility study. According to the summary of the meeting, a total of 12 railway bridges will have to be constructed from Tongi to Dohazari under the project.

These railway bridges will be constructed over Tongi canal, Balu, Shitalakhya, Arial Khan, Old Brahmaputra, Meghna, Chhoto Feni, Muhuri, Feni, Karnaphuli, Matamuhuri and Old Matamuhuri rivers.

Under the initiative, rail tracks will be laid at the proposed power plants at Maheshkhali and Matarbari. It will also facilitate the movement of cars and wagons and have fuel supply and rolling stock depots as well as several offices for railway services.

An official at the railway ministry said the project to establish direct rail links between Dhaka and Matarbari is likely to cost around Tk 700 billion.

Addressing the matter, SM Salimullah Bahar, chief planning officer of Bangladesh Railway, said: “The figure is based on a preliminary estimate of the expenditures.

However, nothing has been finalised yet. Negotiations are underway with the Asian Development Bank for financing. Then, the final cost will be known."

"In fact, our target is to convert all the railway lines across the country to broad gauge. Once this project is implemented, the meter gauge will remain on Dhaka-Mymensingh, Dhaka-Jamalpur and Dhaka-Sylhet rail lines. If the finances are available, the ministry aims to convert these railways to broad gauge between 2035 and 2040.”

The route from Dhaka to Cox's Bazar via Tongi, Bhairab Bazar and Cox's Bazar will span around 470 km. However, if a direct line from Dhaka's Kamalapur to the south-facing Cumilla cord line is established, it would be possible to reduce the distance by 94 km and save about two hours of travel time.

In the past, Britain had a vision of developing railways in Bengal centred on Assam and Kolkata, according to BUET's Prof Shamsul Haque, a communication specialist.

He said after independence, the capital-based Dhaka-Chattogram line would become a commercial corridor. “Making it economically profitable and reliable is a great way to transport passengers and goods faster. With that in mind, the cord line in Cumilla was proposed in the 80s.”

“Of all the projects currently underway in the country, (this project) would have been the most promising. But for some unknown reason, it seems that this project is not being pursued on a priority basis.”

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5 hours ago, Patriot_68 said:

If importing countries have no issue then its fine for us to earn hard currency exporting poison. Where from are they planning to source additional requirements of tobacco, I hope not by expanding their cultivation in Bangladesh.  

Tobacco leaves are always grown in non-agricultural land. 

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/views/opinions/bridges-to-be-demolished-and-reconstructed-1627832598

Bridges to be demolished and reconstructed

 Neil Ray   | Published:  August 01, 2021 21:43:19

As many as 805 bridges all across the country will have to be demolished and reconstructed because those were constructed at a lower height than the standard. A number of these bridges were built recently and construction of a few was still underway only months back, ignoring the request of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) not to do so. Construction of Trimohini bridge and Nainichala bridge was thus carried out in defiance of the BIWTA objection early this year. About a dozen of these bridges on the rivers around the city will have to be knocked down for reconstruction with proper height.

Recently the Executive Committee of National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved 10 projects worth Tk 25.7542 billion under which the bridges of improper heights will be taken care of for watercraft to get past such bridges. Goods-laden water vessels cannot pass these bridges because of lack of overhead clearance. What is intriguing is that the government agencies including the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), Roads and Highways Department (RHD) and Bangladesh Railway (BR) are responsible for construction of these bridges of low height. 

The BIWTC reportedly requested the agencies involved in a number of cases not to go ahead with the plan under which those bridges were constructed. Does it give an indication of anything? It surely does. There is a serious lack of coordination between government agencies. It can be assumed that the BIWTA tried to impress upon the agencies concerned of the demerit of the lower heights. But unless the BIWTA's approval is a sine qua non for construction of any bridge on rivers or other waterways for passage of vessels why should they care?

The problematic bridges came to light when the whole gamut of river channels' navigability and their protection from pollution and encroachment was brought under scrutiny by a task force constituted last year for recommending remedial measures. Revival of the country's waterways system is likely to reduce the transportation cost of commodities and at the same time improve environment. An eviction drive against encroachers on the banks of rivers is part of the campaign now being carried out.

In a way, then, the government will have to carry out a corrective drive against its own organs. Perhaps these agencies gave up on rivers forever and did not pay heed to the BIWTA's pleas. But now the country will have to pay a heavy price for their obstinacy. Bridges on rivers have to be constructed at least 25 feet high from the water levels in time of floods for ensuring overhead clearance of vessels. Similarly, horizontal clearance of 100 feet is warranted. Now this gargantuan task will be highly challenging because of the double whammy of getting those knocked down as well as putting in place their proper replacements. It is not just the question of squandering money, but also the time it will take to get those ready for movement of traffic.

One example of the hassle to be encountered is the resetting of at least 8,000 feet railway track when the Tongi railway bridge will have to be given a proper height. Moreover, the Tongi railway stations will also call for reconstruction. Disruptions, inconvenience and wastage of money in the process make a poor commentary on the sagacity of the people involved and placed in high positions of the agencies concerned. A permanent structure costing millions of Taka should not be treated as a child's toy. No one has the right to bleed the exchequer in this foolish manner. Comprehensive plans have to be drawn for construction of infrastructure of this order.

From now on, let there be proper coordination between different agencies so that overlapping works such as carried out by different utility services can be avoided. In the same breath, adequate plan for infrastructure should be in place before their construction. Finally, the BIWTA should be delegated the authority to issue clearance for bridges over waterways.   

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https://www.daily-sun.com/printversion/details/567976/Big-change-in-economy-ahead

Large Infrastructure Projects Progressing Fast

Big change in economy ahead

Hasibul Aman

2 August, 2021 12:00 AM

Dailys--1--02-08-2021.jpg

Clockwise: Padma Bridge, Metro rail, Rooppur nuclear power plant and Karnaphuli tunnel. – SUN PHOTO

The ongoing large infrastructure projects undertaken by the incumbent government are going to change the country’s fate in the coming days as they are likely to have a huge positive impact on the economic landscape.

In its three terms in a row since early 2009, the Awami League-led government launched a number of large infrastructure schemes ranging from bridge, railway and power ones to mass rapid transit projects for the capital aligned with its long term development goals.

“There was no long or midterm development plan in the country prior to the government’s assumption of power in 2009. Governments other than that of Awami League ran the country with PRSP which even lacked any GDP growth target,” said Dr Shamsul Alam, newly appointed state minister for planning.

With the systematic planning, the government has been able to bring about a big change in the economy as well as the lives and livelihoods of the country’s people, he added. The government has so far adopted three five-year plans of which sixth and seventh plans have been implemented and implementation of the 8th plan is underway. These plans were based on long-term perspective plans called Vision 2021 and Vision 2041.

The Vision 2021 sought to raise the country’s status to a middle-income one by 2021 while the newly formulated Vision 2041 has been picked to turn the country into an affluent nation by 2041, 70 years of the country’s independence.

Besides, Bangladesh formulated Delta Plan 2100 and has taken initiatives for Blue Economy to explore economic potentials from river and sea.

Riding on the plans and positive steps, Bangladesh’s per capita income has now risen to $2,227, which is even higher by $280 than India’s $1,947.

Of the development initiatives, the large infrastructure projects are going to have some direct impacts on the economy in the mid and long terms, according to economic analysts.

Japanese Ambassador to Bangladesh ITO Naoki has recently said the shape of Bangladesh will change and will have a positive impact on the future of Bangladesh once the ongoing mega-infrastructure projects, especially the Japan-funded ones, are completed.

The projects include Padma Bridge, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Padma Bridge Rail Link, a number of metro rail for Dhaka city, Karnaphuli Tunnel, Matarbari Power Plant, Rampal Power Plant, Rail Bridge on Jamuna River, Payra Seaport, Elevated Expressway and Dohazari-Cox’s Bazar-Ghundhum Rail Line among others.

Some of the projects are close to the finishing line while some others have been lunched recently and some are waiting to be launched soon.

Work on the projects was advancing fast in recent years, but the corona pandemic slowed down the pace of some projects.

The country’s GDP growth rate reached its peak at 8.2 percent in 2018-19 fiscal year. But the raging growth rate slipped to 5.2 percent in 2019-20 fiscal year amid the pandemic.

Global analysts hailed Bangladesh that it could have an impressive 5.2 percent GDP rate despite the pandemic while growth of most economies faltered during the pandemic. 

However, work on some infrastructure projects is now going on in full swing maintaining proper health safety protocols while the country is fighting second and third wave of coronavirus after successfully battling the first wave.

Apart from bringing a drastic change to the country’s communications and infrastructure, the projects are expected to increase Bangladesh’s exposure to the whole world.

All this has been possible for the continuation of the government for three terms in a row, according to analysts.

Since taking office in early 2009, the government attached highest priority to improving the country’s energy and power situation as electricity is the main source of industrialisation and socioeconomic development.

As a result, Bangladesh is now a power surplus country from a power-deficiency one and it is now very close to achieving cent percent electricity coverage.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh has been able to nearly finish the much-talked-about Padma Bridge connecting Dhaka with 21 southern districts, ending all skepticism surrounded after cancellation of World Bank fund for the mega structure.

Apart from the funding problem, the country has been able to address all the technical and natural problems while constructing the 6.15-km bridge over the mighty River Padma.

Simultaneously with the bridge, the government is constructing a 169-km rail line from Dhaka to Jashore to ensure seamless connectivity between Dhaka and the southern and southwestern districts while reaping the full benefit of the Padma Bridge.

Similarly, Japan-funded Dhaka Metro Rail project is also advancing fast now despite a hiccup due to coronavirus.

Two sets of train have already reached the country from Japan. The Uttara-Agargaon segment of over 20-km elevated metro rail from Uttara to Motijheel is waiting to go into operation soon.

Work on the China-assisted Karnaphuli Tunnel is in progress amid the pandemic, though a bit slow. So far, it achieved 70 percent progress and the project officials are hopeful of finishing it by the stipulated timeframe.

The government is going to construct a dedicated rail bridge over the Jamuna River parallel to the existing Bangabandhu Bridge to lower burden on the existing bridge apart from curtailing travel time for the trains.

At present, crossing the 4.8-km bridge takes nearly half an hour as speed limit on the bridge has been set at only 20km per hour for the safety of Bangabandhu Bridge. 

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to formally inaugurate the Japan-funded bridge project next month, which will be another milestone for the government.

“Bangladesh is advancing fast in terms of infrastructural development. Bangladesh is also replicable to other countries for its success in economic development and poverty reduction,” commented Dr Atiur Rahman, former Bangladesh Bank governor.

Once the mega projects are implemented, Bangladesh’s image will increase across the world, he also thinks.

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https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/major-modernisation-5-unused-train-stations-cumilla-282721

Tayubur Rahman Sohel

03 August, 2021, 10:15 am

Last modified: 03 August, 2021, 11:12 am

Major modernisation of 5 unused train stations in Cumilla!

 It is money down the drain, say many railway officials, expressing outrage at the waste of public money

231399669_4245468485501068_4612610169467

 

Three railway stations in Cumilla were modernised recently and two others are being renovated, but they are mostly unused. 

Several officials of the Cumilla Railway region, wishing to remain unnamed, expressed their outrage, saying there are many dilapidated stations in the vicinity that see the movement of a lot of passengers but those have not been modernised. 

The stations that are closed and unused have been modernised, they said. 

For example, Mainamati Railway Station in Cumilla has seen extensive renovation and modernisation. It previously had a small room for signaling but has five rooms now – a VIP guest room, a guest room, a hall room, a signaling room, and the station master's room.

The station has got a spectacular foot overbridge as well, which is like a two-storey building. During the renovation, a platform with a shed was also made in the station, which remains closed for two years.

Not only Mainamati, but also the renovation of two more stations in Cumilla -- Alishwar and Lalmai -- has been completed recently. Renovation is going on at two more stations -- Sadar Rasulpur and Shashidal.

According to railway sources, the renovation of these stations is being done at a total cost of Tk10 crore. 

Among the stations, Alishwar station has been closed for 15 years and Mainamati for two years. There is no longer any signaling or train stops at either of these stations.  

No intercity train stops at Lalmai station, although there is signaling here.  Only the Jalalabad and Nasirabad trains stop at this station. However, these trains are no longer operating at present and government revenue from this station is Tk100 or less per day.  

Signaling is on at Sadar Rasulpur station, but hardly any trains stop here either.  Only the Karnafuli train stops at this station. Other trains that stopped here, do not, or are no longer in service altogether.

According to sources, there is no possibility of train stops increasing at these stations in the near future, nor is more signaling likely to be revived again at these stations.

The massive modernisation of these stations has caused outrage among many people including railway officials themselves. Expressing their annoyance, many railway officials said the money has totally gone down the drain.

Sources said there are 11 stations in the Cumilla portion of the Dhaka-Chattogram and Chattogram-Sylhet rail routes. Of those, no activities including signaling have been running at the Mainamati, Alishwar, and Naoti stations. Like Mainamati and Alishwar, the Naoti station has also been modernised, but on a different model.

The Cumilla, Laksam, Nangalkot, Hasanpur, and Gunavati stations have not been modernized, despite having a large number of passengers.   14 pairs of trains, up and down, to and from, stop at Cumilla station, 16 pairs in Laksam, and eight pairs of trains stop at Nangalkot station. 

Only the platforms have been expanded and the foot overbridges (which are not used) have been built at some of these stations.

Except for the Cumilla and Laksam stations, no other stations in the Cumilla portion of rail routes have security measures or are set up for buying tickets online. Tickets are sold at these stations in the traditional handwritten manner, and many rail crossings do not have gates or gatemen. Not a single Ansar member is working at other stations either.

The shiny renovation of closed and low-passenger stations alongside the mismanaged and busier stations, has caused outrage among the general population in the region.

Badrul Huda Jenu, president of the Socheton Nagorik Committee (Cumilla Chapter), said, "I am not unhappy with the modernisation of these stations. My question is, why aren't the stations that have a large number of passengers being modernised on a priority basis?"

Cumilla deputy assistant engineer (railway) Liakat Ali Mojumder says these stations have been modernised under the Dhaka-Chattogram Broad Gauge Double Line project with the future in mind. The work is supposed to be completed in June 2023.

And the other stations have not been modernised as they are not within the scope of this project, he added.

Abdul Wahab, coordinator of Max, who does overall project maintenance, said, "We are working the way the government has designed things. Maybe these are being modernised with a 100-year plan in mind."

He refused to say any more than that. 

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https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/india-keen-rail-project-china-quits-over-revised-cost-282748#.YQjdo1o-FNo.facebook

India keen on rail project as China quits over revised cost

A Chinese contractor got the work of converting Akhaura-Sylhet metre gauge railway line into dual gauge in April 2019

conversion_of_akhaura-sylhet_metre-gauge

 

Indian state-run Ircon International has come forward and promised to ensure financing of the conversion of Akhaura-Sylhet metre gauge railway line into dual gauge if awarded the job as China backtracked on implementing the project citing cost reduction.

A Chinese contractor won the project through a government-to-government (G2G) arrangement in April 2019 when the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved Tk16,104 crore as the project cost.

Later, the cost was deemed to be much higher than other similar projects and the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) revised it down by more than Tk3,354 crore. China then informed the PMO of its decision not to go ahead with the funding and the construction.

In a recent letter to Railway Minister Nurul Islam Sujan, Ircon said it was willing to implement the project through funding form the Exim Bank of India.

It also said it had completed more than 16 projects in Bangladesh since 1986 and its familiarity with the local terrain and socio-economic conditions near the project site would be an added advantage in executing the railway project.

Those involved in the sector said projects implemented through G2G initiatives with Chinese funding cost very high and there was no open invitation of tenders. Similarly, only Indian contractors are invited to submit tenders for implementation of India-funded projects.
In the Akhaura-Sylhet railway project, Ircon will be the contractor if Indian fund is used.

Experiences with the ongoing and previous projects that have been funded by India do not hold much hope, sources said. Indian contractors took more time than expected to begin construction and did not bring building materials to the sites on time.

There is evidence of use of low-quality materials in railway projects as well. Several reports of the railway ministry also pointed out that Indian contractors did not pay heed to complaints.

On the other hand, if projects are funded by development partners, such as the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) or the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), contractors across the world can participate in tenders.

The railway ministry, however, said it still wanted to discuss the project with China and was not thinking of the proposal by India. If China does not come back to the negotiation table, the government will consider India, World Bank, ADB or Jica as alternative sources of funding.

Md Khaled Hussain, joint secretary to the railways ministry, said the Economic Relations Division (ERD) would see the matter of funding of the project.

He said no conclusion had been drawn yet regarding Chinese funding. The railways ministry will write to the ERD to look for other sources of funds after the government reaches a final decision.

In doing so, the authorities will see which source of loans will better serve the interest of Bangladesh, Khaled said.
Mirana Mahrukh, joint secretary at the ERD, said China had asked Bangladesh to revise the proposal, but the railway ministry was yet to send a revised version to the ERD.

Planning Commission objects to Chinese funding

A project proposal to change the 225km Akhaura-Sylhet metre gauge railway line into dual gauge was made at the beginning of 2018 and the cost was estimated at Tk15,705 crore. The Planning Commission at the time objected to the proposal upon analysing costs of other similar projects.

In a report, the Commission said the estimates in the proposal of ballasts, slippers and other materials were much higher compared to costs of other projects of the same nature. Overall, the cost of the Akhaura-Sylhet rail line project was several times the costs of other projects, which was

why, the Commission said, accepting Chinese funding would not be prudent.

For example, the cost of per kilometre construction of the Akhaura-Sylhet rail line was set at Tk56.72 crore whereas building the Akhaura-Laksam dual gauge railway tracks cost the government Tk24.80 crore per kilometre.

The selection of a contractor without any competitive bidding procedure was another reason behind the objection, the Commission said.

The finance ministry finally decided to cancel the implementation of the railway project with Chinese funding.

The Planning Commission said the dual gauge railway line, if constructed, would not increase train operations on the route. If a double line and a dual gauge were set up, only then people would be benefited, it added.

The then finance minister AMA Muhith echoed the view in a letter.

Due to the opposition of the Planning Commission, the project proposal was not placed at the Ecnec meeting at the time.

But after the change of the government and the change of the finance and planning ministers, the Akhaura-Sylhet railway project got approval of Ecnec in 2019 with the project cost fixed at Tk16,104 crore.

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https://thefinancialexpress.com.bd/trade/bangladeshs-stock-market-holds-hidden-gems-for-investors--1628084047

Bangladesh’s stock market holds ‘hidden gems’ for investors, HSBC says

Published:  August 04, 2021 19:34:07

1628084047.jpg

The stock market in Bangladesh deserves more attention as it holds opportunities for investors looking for diversification and ‘hidden gems' 

Devendra Joshi, ASEAN and Frontier Markets Equity Strategist at the HSBC Global Research, said this at a virtual session on Wednesday, according to a press release. 

“Bangladesh is on a similar growth trajectory to Vietnam. In fact, its stock market is where this ASEAN nation was five years ago, and it is well placed to closing the gap,” he explained at the session titled ‘Bangladesh Market Insights 2021: Consumption Propelling Growth’. 

“We think the country is on the verge of an industrial revolution as incomes rise and technology plays an ever-increasing role in the economy. Urbanisation, smaller households and more women at work are powerful consumption drivers that support high levels of growth,” Mr Joshi added. 

Bangladesh also has a sound macro position and a robust external balance sheet –with low external debt and high FX reserve coverage, he discussed in the session. 

“Its foreign direct investments (FDI) remains low but is expected to improve as it moves up the value-added ladder fast. While Bangladesh is one of the cheapest places to manufacture goods in Asia, it will need to diversify away from garments.” 

“In terms of ease of doing business,  Bangladesh still lags Vietnam but is making efforts to improve”, Mr Joshi said. 

Dr Ahmad Kaikaus, Principal Secretary to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina attended the session as the chief guest, while Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) President Md Jashim Uddin attended the programme as the special guest. 

Sandeep Uppal, Global Co-Head of International Subsidiary Banking, Commercial Banking, HSBC, Md Mahbub ur Rahman, CEO of HSBC Bangladesh, Kevin Green, Country Head of Wholesale Banking, HSBC Bangladesh also spoke on the occasion. 

Speaking at the event, Dr Kaikaus said, “The economy of Bangladesh is seeing continuous growth because of the entrepreneurship spirit of its people, strategic location, and support from the financial sector. We are energised to do better and showcase our success stories through increased public-private partnerships and reach Bangladesh’s competitiveness globally. I would like to thank HSBC for always being a trusted and optimistic partner for the Government of Bangladesh, which will further strengthen the Bengal Delta to glow and shine much sooner than the Governments set a target of achieving Developed Country status by 2041.” 

CEO of HSBC Bangladesh said, “In its past 50 years, Bangladesh’s trajectory of economic growth has been a testament to the people’s insatiable desire and effort to do better. Continued digitalisation and up-gradation of technology, consistent rise in per capita income leading to incremental consumptions and demographic dividend have been opening up a world of opportunities for Bangladesh. Historically, our private sector has always been resilient during challenging times and HSBC will continue to play its part through unparalleled international network and connectivity.” 

Key members of the business community, regulatory bodies and representatives from state-owned enterprises, among others, were present at the webinar.

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Saifuddin Saif

06 August, 2021, 10:40 pm

Last modified: 07 August, 2021, 11:53 am

ADB’s grand $5b connectivity plan

transport_sector_to_get_5050m_from_adb_i

 

The transport sector accounts for one-third of the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) lending pipeline involving $16.56 billion for the next three years for Bangladesh as the global lender prioritises multimodal connectivity for a faster economic recovery from Covid-19 shocks.

Dhaka-Chattogram highway expansion, Dhaka-Cox's Bazar railway, Dhaka northwest corridor road, south corridor and Chattogram port access road improvement are among 19 projects identified by the ADB to finance in the 2022-24 period, according to documents of the ADB and the Economic Relations Division (ERD).

Of these projects, 13 are components of the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (Sasec) programme, an ADB-supported initiative that looks to promote better partnership among seven neighbours, including Bangladesh, in the areas of transport, trade facilitation, energy, and economic corridor development.

Other Sasec member countries are Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Road, rail, waterway to get priority

Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit, Tongi-Akhaura Dual Gauge, Dhaka-Sylhet corridor road and inland waterways have also been incorporated in the ADB's project list, indicating the lender's commitment to help Bangladesh develop a better road, rail and waterway network to prepare for a wider sub-regional connectivity.

Some of the projects are already in different phases of implementation, officials said.

ADB Country Director Manmohan Prakash, in an ADB report, said in the transport sector, the ADB will pursue multimodal transport network development (road, railway, inland waterways and urban). Priority will be given to Sasec corridors for enhanced regional connectivity and integration with regional and global value chains.

"In the road sector, the ADB will support the expansion of national highways to enhance regional and international trade and passenger movement, boost competitiveness and catalyse private investment and growth."

He said in the rail sector, a corridor approach will be adopted to complete the network and gauge standardisation. The ADB will consider expansion or rehabilitation of port facilities to increase capacity for trade and improve connectivity.

Aid to cushion pandemic shock

The ADB has streamlined its lending activities in Bangladesh to cushion economic shocks from Covid-19. In the lending pipeline, $5 billion has been proposed for road and rail and waterway projects to develop regional connectivity, according to the ADB and the ERD sources.

Work on the Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur four-lane highway project under the Sasec Dhaka-Northwest Corridor road (phase 2) project is expected to be completed by 2024.

The ADB made a lending commitment amounting to $1,200 million in various phases for the project. The development lender has already disbursed $700 million for the project. Some $300 million will come in the third phase next year, while the remaining $200 million will be released in 2024.

Before the completion of the project, the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) wants to start work on the Sasec Dhaka-Northwest Corridor road (phase-3) in 2023. But it has not been decided yet whether a four-lane highway will be on the Rangpur-Banglabandha route or the Rangpur-Burimari route. 

Officials of the RHD said under the project, both the roads can be upgraded to four-lane at the same time. The ADB has pledged to lend $400 million in the first phase of the project.

Dr Md Waliur Rahman, project director Sasec-II: Improvement of Elenga-Hatikamrul-Rangpur road to a four-lane highway project, ‍said the project work has been affected because stone import from India has been disrupted in the pandemic. The project has so far made 32% physical progress. Measures have recently been taken to speed up work. 

If the ADB releases loans in the third and fourth phases within the stipulated time, the pace of implementation will go up, he added. 

Once this project is implemented, there will be a radical change in economic activities of the country's northern region. Work is also underway on the Sasec corridor-III project, which will boost trade with India, Waliur said.

The feasibility study of the Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur four-lane highway project was conducted under the assistance of a sub-regional road transport project preparatory facility in 2014. The study found the annual average daily traffic to be at 28,240. The annual average daily traffic movement will increase to 57,000 in 2025.

Meanwhile, the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, the main economic lifeline of the country, will be upgraded to six or eight lanes. The government wants to start its construction in 2024, which will be preceded by a feasibility study with the ADB funding. The ADB will provide $400 million for this key project in the first phase in 2024.

The initiative to expand the Dhaka-Chattogram highway has been hanging in the balance for almost a decade. At one time, there was a plan to construct an expressway on it, but the government has recently backtracked on this decision. Besides, the government had planned to build a separate dedicated road on the Dhaka-Chattogram route. 

Eventually, the RHD decided to widen the existing four-lane road. At the same time, work on another road will start next year to connect the Dhaka-Chattogram highway with the Chattogram port. The ADB will finance this project too.

Riaz Ahmad Jaber, additional chief engineer of the Roads and Highways Department, said the link will be a four lane road to enhance the connectivity with Chattogram port. The road will also be connected to the Karnaphuli tunnel.

He further said the feasibility study for upgrading the Dhaka-Chattogram highway to six or eight lanes will start soon.

There is also a proposal to upgrade the road from Daulatdia on the bank of the Padma to Barishal via Faridpur to four lanes to speed up communication with the southern part of the country. The project is also in the ADB's three-year lending pipeline. The development partner has assured a $400 million loan for the project in 2024.

$500m for Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane

The ADB-funded Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane project was approved at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council last February with a target to implement it by 2026. The ADB has already informed the ERD that it would give $500 million for the project in the second phase in 2023.

The Dhaka-Sylhet highway will have two service lanes for slow moving vehicles in addition to the four main lanes. The highway is very important for overall development, including more dynamism in trade and industry, through the connectivity to the Asian Highway Network, BIMSTEC corridor, Saarc corridor and other regional road networks, according to the project proposal.

Broad gauge in the east to connect with Trans-Asian Railway

Meanwhile, the railways ministry has taken an initiative to revamp the railway line from Dhaka to Cox's Bazar with ADB funding,  through which the rail line in the east will be converted into broad gauge. 

Besides, with the establishment of the Matarbari Port in Cox's Bazar and the bay container terminal in Chattogram, the traffic movement will increase significantly. Railways alongside road communication can play an important role in this case. In view of this, there are several projects in the ADB's lending pipeline to upgrade the Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar railway lines in the next three years.

The ADB is shortlisting several projects on the basis of discussions with the railways ministry. Laksam-Chattogram mixed gauge, Tongi-Akhaura dual gauge, and Dhaka-Comilla cord line are on the list for ADB funding in new projects. 

The development lender might also provide $500 million in loan for the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar rail line in the third phase.

SM Salimullah Bahar, chief planning officer of the Bangladesh Railway, said, "The existing railway line from Dhaka to Dohazari in Chattogram will be converted into broad gauge. We have already completed the feasibility study." 

The installation of broad-gauge lines in the east will also make it easier for Bangladesh to be connected with China, Pakistan, India and Myanmar through the Trans-Asian Railway connectivity, he also said.

"We have also taken a project to assess the possibility of constructing a Dhaka-Cumilla chord line. We may take an initiative to build the chord line in the future based on this estimation," he added.

Waterway development in priority list

Roads and railways apart, the ADB is giving importance to inland waterway development. That is why a number of waterway projects, including for port development, have been put on the priority list for the next three years.

The ADB was encouraged to work on expressway network development, road connectivity to ports, road safety by grade separation at intersections, rural roads, logistics improvement, multimodal transport, development of land ports, inland waterways development and financing of mass rapid transits and subway. 

In the railway sector, investment was sought for development of chord line between Dhaka and Laksham, dual gauge double lines, replacement of locomotives, ensuring safety at level crossings and for a new inland container depot at Dhirasram among others. 

The Chattogram Port Authority emphasised the need for dedicated container trains to Dhaka, ICD development and construction of cold storage facilities.

Dr Pear Mohammad, additional secretary and wing chief of the ERD, said the ADB's lending pipeline has been created and all the projects will be implemented. 

On many occasions, project proposals are made, but it is the approval process that delays project initiation. That is why development partner's funding in the pipeline might not be available for a project within the stipulated time. In that case, the pipeline may change.

Road infrastructure vital for connectivity 

Professor Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for the Policy Dialogue, said, "We have ratified the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement, a sub-regional connectivity initiative. We need to develop road infrastructure for its implementation."

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) signed the deal for seamless movement of people and cargo among the neighbours.

To achieve multimodal connectivity, it is also important to upgrade railways and waterways in an integrated manner alongside roads, he said, adding that trade facilitation, single window, interoperability of systems, and custom requirements have to be developed too. 

"Thus, we will be able to take advantage of boosting trade and drawing in investment. The country's competitiveness in this regional market, especially in India, will enhance with the increased investment, Mustafizur said.

"It is good for the country that the ADB is financing the regional connectivity project, which will bring benefits for our internal road, rail and waterway infrastructure."

Dr Mohammad Yunus, senior research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said there is no alternative to developing transnational connectivity infrastructure to reap economic benefits through transits. 

"India has given transit facilities to neighboring countries like Myanmar and we have a huge opportunity to benefit from it."

"We are constructing a port in Matarbari and work on the bay container terminal is also going on. If we can also build road and rail infrastructure, different states of India, Myanmar, Bhutan will use our port, which will increase our revenue. Singapore's port is being used by many countries. We can also gain by allowing others to use our port. In this way, our economy will be more dynamic," he added.

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22 hours ago, Joel Ahmed said:

https://www.tbsnews.net/bangladesh/transport/adbs-grand-5b-connectivity-plan-284572#.YQ1uqKIKwTA.facebook

Saifuddin Saif

06 August, 2021, 10:40 pm

Last modified: 07 August, 2021, 11:53 am

ADB’s grand $5b connectivity plan

transport_sector_to_get_5050m_from_adb_i

 

The transport sector accounts for one-third of the Asian Development Bank's (ADB) lending pipeline involving $16.56 billion for the next three years for Bangladesh as the global lender prioritises multimodal connectivity for a faster economic recovery from Covid-19 shocks.

Dhaka-Chattogram highway expansion, Dhaka-Cox's Bazar railway, Dhaka northwest corridor road, south corridor and Chattogram port access road improvement are among 19 projects identified by the ADB to finance in the 2022-24 period, according to documents of the ADB and the Economic Relations Division (ERD).

Of these projects, 13 are components of the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (Sasec) programme, an ADB-supported initiative that looks to promote better partnership among seven neighbours, including Bangladesh, in the areas of transport, trade facilitation, energy, and economic corridor development.

Other Sasec member countries are Bhutan, India, the Maldives, Myanmar, Nepal, and Sri Lanka.

Road, rail, waterway to get priority

Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit, Tongi-Akhaura Dual Gauge, Dhaka-Sylhet corridor road and inland waterways have also been incorporated in the ADB's project list, indicating the lender's commitment to help Bangladesh develop a better road, rail and waterway network to prepare for a wider sub-regional connectivity.

Some of the projects are already in different phases of implementation, officials said.

ADB Country Director Manmohan Prakash, in an ADB report, said in the transport sector, the ADB will pursue multimodal transport network development (road, railway, inland waterways and urban). Priority will be given to Sasec corridors for enhanced regional connectivity and integration with regional and global value chains.

"In the road sector, the ADB will support the expansion of national highways to enhance regional and international trade and passenger movement, boost competitiveness and catalyse private investment and growth."

He said in the rail sector, a corridor approach will be adopted to complete the network and gauge standardisation. The ADB will consider expansion or rehabilitation of port facilities to increase capacity for trade and improve connectivity.

Aid to cushion pandemic shock

The ADB has streamlined its lending activities in Bangladesh to cushion economic shocks from Covid-19. In the lending pipeline, $5 billion has been proposed for road and rail and waterway projects to develop regional connectivity, according to the ADB and the ERD sources.

Work on the Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur four-lane highway project under the Sasec Dhaka-Northwest Corridor road (phase 2) project is expected to be completed by 2024.

The ADB made a lending commitment amounting to $1,200 million in various phases for the project. The development lender has already disbursed $700 million for the project. Some $300 million will come in the third phase next year, while the remaining $200 million will be released in 2024.

Before the completion of the project, the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) wants to start work on the Sasec Dhaka-Northwest Corridor road (phase-3) in 2023. But it has not been decided yet whether a four-lane highway will be on the Rangpur-Banglabandha route or the Rangpur-Burimari route. 

Officials of the RHD said under the project, both the roads can be upgraded to four-lane at the same time. The ADB has pledged to lend $400 million in the first phase of the project.

Dr Md Waliur Rahman, project director Sasec-II: Improvement of Elenga-Hatikamrul-Rangpur road to a four-lane highway project, ‍said the project work has been affected because stone import from India has been disrupted in the pandemic. The project has so far made 32% physical progress. Measures have recently been taken to speed up work. 

If the ADB releases loans in the third and fourth phases within the stipulated time, the pace of implementation will go up, he added. 

Once this project is implemented, there will be a radical change in economic activities of the country's northern region. Work is also underway on the Sasec corridor-III project, which will boost trade with India, Waliur said.

The feasibility study of the Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur four-lane highway project was conducted under the assistance of a sub-regional road transport project preparatory facility in 2014. The study found the annual average daily traffic to be at 28,240. The annual average daily traffic movement will increase to 57,000 in 2025.

Meanwhile, the Dhaka-Chattogram highway, the main economic lifeline of the country, will be upgraded to six or eight lanes. The government wants to start its construction in 2024, which will be preceded by a feasibility study with the ADB funding. The ADB will provide $400 million for this key project in the first phase in 2024.

The initiative to expand the Dhaka-Chattogram highway has been hanging in the balance for almost a decade. At one time, there was a plan to construct an expressway on it, but the government has recently backtracked on this decision. Besides, the government had planned to build a separate dedicated road on the Dhaka-Chattogram route. 

Eventually, the RHD decided to widen the existing four-lane road. At the same time, work on another road will start next year to connect the Dhaka-Chattogram highway with the Chattogram port. The ADB will finance this project too.

Riaz Ahmad Jaber, additional chief engineer of the Roads and Highways Department, said the link will be a four lane road to enhance the connectivity with Chattogram port. The road will also be connected to the Karnaphuli tunnel.

He further said the feasibility study for upgrading the Dhaka-Chattogram highway to six or eight lanes will start soon.

There is also a proposal to upgrade the road from Daulatdia on the bank of the Padma to Barishal via Faridpur to four lanes to speed up communication with the southern part of the country. The project is also in the ADB's three-year lending pipeline. The development partner has assured a $400 million loan for the project in 2024.

$500m for Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane

The ADB-funded Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane project was approved at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council last February with a target to implement it by 2026. The ADB has already informed the ERD that it would give $500 million for the project in the second phase in 2023.

The Dhaka-Sylhet highway will have two service lanes for slow moving vehicles in addition to the four main lanes. The highway is very important for overall development, including more dynamism in trade and industry, through the connectivity to the Asian Highway Network, BIMSTEC corridor, Saarc corridor and other regional road networks, according to the project proposal.

Broad gauge in the east to connect with Trans-Asian Railway

Meanwhile, the railways ministry has taken an initiative to revamp the railway line from Dhaka to Cox's Bazar with ADB funding,  through which the rail line in the east will be converted into broad gauge. 

Besides, with the establishment of the Matarbari Port in Cox's Bazar and the bay container terminal in Chattogram, the traffic movement will increase significantly. Railways alongside road communication can play an important role in this case. In view of this, there are several projects in the ADB's lending pipeline to upgrade the Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar railway lines in the next three years.

The ADB is shortlisting several projects on the basis of discussions with the railways ministry. Laksam-Chattogram mixed gauge, Tongi-Akhaura dual gauge, and Dhaka-Comilla cord line are on the list for ADB funding in new projects. 

The development lender might also provide $500 million in loan for the Chattogram-Cox's Bazar rail line in the third phase.

SM Salimullah Bahar, chief planning officer of the Bangladesh Railway, said, "The existing railway line from Dhaka to Dohazari in Chattogram will be converted into broad gauge. We have already completed the feasibility study." 

The installation of broad-gauge lines in the east will also make it easier for Bangladesh to be connected with China, Pakistan, India and Myanmar through the Trans-Asian Railway connectivity, he also said.

"We have also taken a project to assess the possibility of constructing a Dhaka-Cumilla chord line. We may take an initiative to build the chord line in the future based on this estimation," he added.

Waterway development in priority list

Roads and railways apart, the ADB is giving importance to inland waterway development. That is why a number of waterway projects, including for port development, have been put on the priority list for the next three years.

The ADB was encouraged to work on expressway network development, road connectivity to ports, road safety by grade separation at intersections, rural roads, logistics improvement, multimodal transport, development of land ports, inland waterways development and financing of mass rapid transits and subway. 

In the railway sector, investment was sought for development of chord line between Dhaka and Laksham, dual gauge double lines, replacement of locomotives, ensuring safety at level crossings and for a new inland container depot at Dhirasram among others. 

The Chattogram Port Authority emphasised the need for dedicated container trains to Dhaka, ICD development and construction of cold storage facilities.

Dr Pear Mohammad, additional secretary and wing chief of the ERD, said the ADB's lending pipeline has been created and all the projects will be implemented. 

On many occasions, project proposals are made, but it is the approval process that delays project initiation. That is why development partner's funding in the pipeline might not be available for a project within the stipulated time. In that case, the pipeline may change.

Road infrastructure vital for connectivity 

Professor Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for the Policy Dialogue, said, "We have ratified the BBIN Motor Vehicle Agreement, a sub-regional connectivity initiative. We need to develop road infrastructure for its implementation."

Bangladesh, Bhutan, India and Nepal (BBIN) signed the deal for seamless movement of people and cargo among the neighbours.

To achieve multimodal connectivity, it is also important to upgrade railways and waterways in an integrated manner alongside roads, he said, adding that trade facilitation, single window, interoperability of systems, and custom requirements have to be developed too. 

"Thus, we will be able to take advantage of boosting trade and drawing in investment. The country's competitiveness in this regional market, especially in India, will enhance with the increased investment, Mustafizur said.

"It is good for the country that the ADB is financing the regional connectivity project, which will bring benefits for our internal road, rail and waterway infrastructure."

Dr Mohammad Yunus, senior research fellow at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies, said there is no alternative to developing transnational connectivity infrastructure to reap economic benefits through transits. 

"India has given transit facilities to neighboring countries like Myanmar and we have a huge opportunity to benefit from it."

"We are constructing a port in Matarbari and work on the bay container terminal is also going on. If we can also build road and rail infrastructure, different states of India, Myanmar, Bhutan will use our port, which will increase our revenue. Singapore's port is being used by many countries. We can also gain by allowing others to use our port. In this way, our economy will be more dynamic," he added.

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