Dhaka-Sylhet highway to be made four-lane with $2.0b ADB funding

FHM HUMAYAN KABIR | Thursday, 19 November 2020

The Asian Development Bank (ADB) is likely to provide US$ 2.0 billion worth of loan for widening Dhaka-Sylhet highway into four-lane, aimed at making the road suitable for regional connectivity as well as cross-border and regional trade, officials said on Wednesday.

The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) is working on preparing a project proposal for the highways based on the latest detailed design of the corridor, they said.

The project would require an estimated investment of nearly $ 2.88 billion, a senior RHD official said. "The ADB has agreed to provide the lion's share of the total cost in four trances during the entire project implementation period," he told the FE.

"We have already discussed with the ADB about confirmation of the loan," said a senior official at the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges (MoRT&B).

After a setback with a Chinese funding proposal, the RHD has finally decided to take support from the Manila-based lender for the development project. Earlier, China had committed financing the project under a government-to-government (G2G) arrangement.

The Dhaka-Sylhet-Tamabil highway is one of the most important routes for the regional connectivity and trade. The transport corridor is now in bad shape due to lack of proper maintenance of the narrow road, which is not suitable for heavy vehicles.

Another senior RHD official said they had almost completed a detailed design of the road bringing some changes in the previous design prepared in 2015. In the latest design, there will be separate lanes for the slow-moving vehicles on both sides of the four-lane road, he added.

Besides, the intersection design is also being changed, and the authorities were planning to use polymer modified bitumen (PMB) for the wearing course of the road, he added.

Meanwhile, the land acquisition work for the Dhaka-Sylhet-Tamabil highway is going on under a separate project, the RHD official said.

The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the "Land Acquisition and Utility Transfer Project: Support to Improvement of Dhaka (Kanchpur)-Sylhet-Tamabil Highway into Four-lane and Construction of Separate Service Lanes on Both Sides of the Project" of Tk 38.86 billion in October 2018.

The RHD is also working on widening the Sylhet-Tamabil section of the corridor into four-lane one under another project.

The ECNEC in September last approved the project for upgrading the 56-km Sylhet-Tamabil corridor at Tk 35.86 billion.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) is providing Tk 29.70 billion as project assistance while the rest of the fund would come from the internal resources.

The RHD official said they were preparing the project proposal for the Dhaka-Sylhet corridor for getting approval of the ECNEC. Soon after getting the approval, they would appoint contractor for rebuilding the road, he added.

When asked, a senior official at the Economic Relations Division (ERD) said the negotiations on the $ 2.0 billion loan with the ADB would complete shortly.

Insiders said the project would further facilitate trade with India's seven-sister states, including Assam.

Also, it will establish sub-regional road communication, and cross-border connectivity between China, Myanmar, and Bhutan.

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