What new mega projects are kicking off amid the pandemic?

Experts suggest prioritizing completion, implementation of current projects over taking new ones

The government is all set to kick off several new mega projects amid the Covid-19 pandemic in the upcoming fiscal year.

According to the proposed budget for FY22, construction work of the first subway in Dhaka, second (Airport-Kamalapur-Purbachal) and third (Hemayetpur-Vatara) metro rails, Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway, second rail bridge over Jamuna River, Dhaka-Chittagong high-speed train, and Cox’s Bazar Runway extension projects are set to begin.

The projects are to be funded mostly from the annual development program for FY22.

However, experts have opposed plans to spend funds on new mega projects amid the pandemic. 

They instead called to complete ongoing mega projects without delay, as missing deadlines again will create further challenges.

Experts: Prioritize existing projects

“The government should not allocate a big chunk of funds for new mega projects amid the pandemic, as we are in an uncertain situation now. The government should first complete all the ongoing projects quickly, as these projects could boost the economy,” said economist Prof Mustafizur Rahman.

Transport expert Prof Shamsul Haque said: “Since the ongoing mega projects have gained momentum after overcoming obstacles, these should first be completed as soon as possible, and there should not be any more excuses for the lack of quick execution.

Also read- Budget FY22: 10 mega projects to get lion’s share of ADP

“As mega projects have faced many challenges due to the pandemic, we should not take new ones. Missing deadlines always increases the implementation cost,” he added.    

According to the mid-term policy statement (2020-21 to 2022-23), the government has taken such massive action plans as a well-knitted transport and communication system is a prerequisite for a developed country. 

The statement prioritized the transport sector and emphasized the execution of new mega projects such as subways, new metro rails, and high speed trains so that the people can travel comfortably.

Mega projects to be launched

On Thursday, while placing the budget for FY22 in parliament, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said: “As the designs of MRT Line-1 (Airport-Kamalapur-Purbachal) and Line-5 (Hemayetpur-Vatara) are at the final stage, construction work will begin soon.”

According to the Dhaka Mass Transit Company Limited, a tender for the MRT Line-1 will likely be floated by June. The estimated cost of the project is Tk39,000 crore.

The Bridge Division is planning to start construction of the first subway in Dhaka within the next year.

The Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) appointed the Spanish firm TYPSA to provide consultancy services for carrying out a feasibility study and preparing the preliminary design for construction of the Dhaka Subway. The firm recently submitted a draft feasibility study report and is scheduled to submit a final report by October.

According to the draft, the first subway (Route O) will be built between Tongi and Jhilmil via Sadarghat, Kakrail, Moghbazar, Mohakhali, Kakoli, Kalshi, Uttara Sector-17, Uttara Sector-10 and Machimpur, which is around 28.71km, at a cost of $8 billion.

Also read- Budget FY22: Second highest allocation for better transport, communication

BBA Chief Engineer and Dhaka Subway Project Director Quazi Mohammad Ferdous said three more routes, along with Route O, are likely to be built by 2030 in the first phase of the project.

“A total of 11 subway routes to cover 258kms are scheduled to be built by 2041,” he added.

The Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway Project (DAEEP) is another mega project that will connect the Dhaka Elevated Expressway with the Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway, and the Dhaka-Chittagong Highway. This will greatly help to reduce traffic jams in Dhaka.

DAEEP is set to get Tk3,227crore in the coming fiscal year.

“Preparatory work for constructing DAEEP has already started, however, the main physical construction work will begin soon,” said Shahabuddin Khan, project director.

Besides, Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan said the construction work for Bangabandhu Rail Bridge over the Jamuna River is another mega project under his ministry.

“Piling work of the project has already started,” he added.

Also read- Budget FY22: Railway gets more allocation for mega projects

The project is to get Tk3,580 crore in the budget for FY22.

Besides, the Dhaka-Chittagong high speed train project is still in the pre-feasibility stage.

Meanwhile, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is likely to inaugurate the construction work of a state-of-the-art runway at Cox’s Bazar Airport in June.

Current status of ongoing mega projects

According to the latest report, Padma Bridge will be opened for traffic in June next year and, at the same time, people can travel between Mawa and Bhanga through the Padma Bridge rail link. 

However, total construction work of Padma Bridge rail link project between Dhaka and Jessore will be completed by June 2024.

The first metro rail (MRT line-6) between Uttara and Motijheel-Kamalapur and Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar Rail Link will also be launched by June next year. 

Besides, construction work of Karnaphuli Tunnel will be completed at the end of the next year as per revised deadlines.  

Expansion of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport will also be completed by June 2023 before the election, which is likely to be held in December 2023. 

During budget placement in the parliament for the FY2021-2022 on Thursday, Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal said “overall implementation progress of the mega projects is 57.56%.”

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