No headway in widening 50-km highway under Ashuganj-Akhaura 4-lane project

MUNIMA SULTANA | Saturday, 17 April 2021

The tenure of the first road-sector project under the Indian Line of Credit (LoC) will end within next two months without any headway in widening the 50.58-kilometre highway from Ashuganj river port to Akhaura land port.

Sources said both the project cost and time of the Tk 35.67 billion project titled Ashuganj river port-Akhaura land port four-lane highway project are set to increase as only 24 per cent progress has been made since the project was taken up in April 2017.

The project office under the Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has already taken a move to extend the tenure by four more years till 2025 and propose raising the project cost, at least 1.5 per cent higher than the current cost.

"The estimation of the project cost is now at review and evaluation stage between the RHD and the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges," said an official involved with the project.

He said it would take time to finalise the project cost to be sent for approval from the Planning Commission.

Sources said the project had been delayed due to reasons like delay in land acquisition as land price has increased three times from the market rate according to a new government rule effective from September 2017.

But major time loss in the project was for taking time to prepare tender documents, they said, pointing out that RHD and EXIM Bank have dealt with the first-ever project under the road sector under LoC for which both sides took time to finalise the documents.

Officials said the time has also elapsed due to the coronavirus pandemic as the Indian contractor who was awarded the first two packages in February last year could not start the work for lockdown and travel restrictions between the two countries.

They said out of three work packages (WP), contracts of two packages were signed in December 19, 2019 and January 2020. The commencement of work was given in February just before the coronavirus pandemic hit the country.

The 3rd package work was approved by the cabinet committee on government purchase on April 07.

Sources said Indian firm Afcons Infrastructure Limited has got all three works. The contract prices have also been recorded higher than the estimation stated in the DPP.

According to DPP, 12.21-km road from Ashuganj river port to Sarail has been constructed under the work package-1 while 27.05-km road from Sarail crossing to Dharkhar under the WP-2 and 11.35-km from Dharkhar crossing to Akhaura land port.

The Indian government took up the Ashuganj River Port-Sarail-Khor Khar-Akhaura land port four-lane highway project with financial involvement of Tk 22.55 billion under the LoC II.

The Indian government took up the road project to facilitate travel and transportation of passengers and goods between northeastern Indian part of Agartola and Kolkata through the river port.

The distance between Kolkata port and Ashuganj port is 750kms and it takes seven days by waterways.

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