Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has sought 40 per cent higher funds and 40 more months to complete the widening work of a 190-km Elenga-Rangpur four-lane highway, insiders said on Monday.
The state-owned road developer has finished only 11 per cent of the road widening work in the last 4 years although the funds, committed by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the government, were available, they added.
The changes in design and improper feasibility study are the key reasons for raising the cost of the Tk 118.99 billion project and extending the deadline, sources familiar with the scheme told the FE.
They said although the "SASEC Road Connectivity Project-II: Elenga-Hatikamrul-Rangpur Road to a 4-lane highway" was taken up based on the feasibility study and an ADB-funded design in 2016, it now needs to be revised with bringing about many changes for imperfections.
The government's highest economic policymaking body--the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC)--in September 2016 approved the project at a cost of Tk118.99 billion for upgrading the 190.40-km Elenga-Hatikamrul-Rangpur Road into four-lane by August 2021.
RHD had completed only 11 per cent of physical project works until August 2020.
The road developer has recently sought revision of the project raising the cost by 40 per cent to Tk 166.62 billion.
It also sought three years and four months more to December 2024 for completing the remaining works.
A senior RHD official said they had prepared the project proposal based on the feasibility study and preliminary design, recommended by the ADB-funded consultants in 2014.
"When we were in the field for the project execution, we need to bring some changes in the design including Hatikamrul interchange, slow-moving vehicle (SMV) lanes, land acquisition, some flyovers and underpass construction etc," he added.
Under the ADB-funded "technical assistance for sub-regional road transport preparatory facility project" in 2014, the consultants conducted a feasibility study and a design for the highway.
Since this road is the main economic lifeline between Dhaka and northern Bangladesh and it would be utilised for connecting India, Nepal and Bhutan through land borders, they had taken up the project at a cost of Tk 118.99 billion attaching highest priority, the RHD official said.
The Manila-based lender also confirmed Tk 93.55 billion worth of funds for completing the road upgrading works at that time.
According to the revised project proposal, it would require Tk16.53 billion more for changes in the design and inclusion of concrete pavement on the road under the ongoing seven packages on the project works.
Besides, RHD has sought Tk 1.59 billion additional funds for appointing supervision consultants.
When asked about the revision of the project, another RHD official requesting for anonymity said re-pricing of acquired lands into threefold, imperfection in the preliminary feasibility study and design, they had been forced to recast it.
"For example, we will now require extra Tk 24.8 billion funds for land acquisition and resettlement components of the projects as the government boosted the payment threefold for the land and twofold to the affected properties in the project areas," he told the FE.
Besides, there are some changes in SMV lanes, underpasses and flyover, retender for a single package, and changes of rate-schedule have forced them to revise the project with the extended cost and timeline for completion, the RHD official said.
When asked, a Planning Commission (PC) official told this correspondent that since it is a very important project for Bangladesh, they have recommended revision.
But it is unfortunate that a 190km road will take eight years to upgrade into 4-lane and thus the country needs to spend 40 per cent higher funds from its hard-earned public-taxed money, he added.
Now the proposal for revision will be placed to the ECNEC for getting approval, the PC official said.