$2.93b Padma bridge okayed

http://www.thefinancialexpress-bd.com/more.php?news_id=122663&date=2011-01-12

$2.93b Padma bridge okayed
Cost doubles in three years

FE Report

The government Tuesday approved a 205.07 billion taka (US$2.93 billion) bridge over the river Padma, raising its construction cost to nearly twice the estimate made three years back.

The country’s highest project approval body led by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina okayed the revised cost in an effort to kick-off the work of the Bangladesh’s costliest project later this year, officials said.

The body, Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC), had approved a 101.62 billion taka budget for the 6.15 kilometres long rail-cum-road bridge in August 2007.

But the cost has been revised due to soaring prices of construction materials in the global market, a larger-than-expected spike in resettlement budget and complex engineering of the project, communications ministry officials said.

The bulk of the cost will be funded by credit from development lenders such as the World Bank, Asian Development Bank, Japan and Islamic Development Bank. Construction is expected to complete in 2014-15 financial year.

The government took up the ambitious Padma Bridge building scheme to connect the country’s impoverished southwestern region with the more-developed central and eastern parts.

A World Bank report has said the planned bridge would boost the country’s gross domestic product by 1.2 per cent, revive the fortune of the ailing Mongla Port and cut poverty in the poorest south-western districts.

The report said pace of poverty alleviation in the country’s 20 odd southwestern districts, where level of hunger is five per cent higher than the national average, would speed up once the bridge is built.

Of the $2.93 billion, the four development partners will lend $2.36 billion with the World Bank pledging $1.20 billion, ADB $615 million, Japan $400 million and the IDB $140 million.

The rest will be financed from the government’s tax revenue, an official of the communications ministry said.

The ECNEC also approved a 37.80 kilometres long land port connecting road scheme in southern district of Feni, which will facilitate cross-border trade with northeastern Indian states.

The Baruierhat-Heako-Ramgarh land port road, which links southeastern Bangladesh with the Indian state of Tripura, will cost 2.04 billion taka. It will be financed from the one billion dollar Indian soft credit.

A top government official said the Tripura state government would construct part of the road linking the Indian land port of Sabrum with Bangladesh’s border point of Ramgarh, situated on the bank of Feni river.

Seven north-eastern Indian states would use the planned road to access Chittgaong seaport, he said, adding it would spur trade between the two nations.

The ECNEC in its meeting in Dhaka also endorsed five other projects valued at 18.09 billion taka.

They include 10.78 billion taka Chittagong Water Supply Improvement and Sanitation project, 780 million taka gas supply scheme in Chandpur, a 150megawatt power plant and 4.25 billion taka sewage treatment plant at Dasherkandi.

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