Part of 4-lane highway to be ready by June
M Abul Kalam Azad
The communications ministry is pushing hard to speed up the upgrade of Dhaka-Chittagong highway and complete at least part of the work by June.
The upgrade of 192-kilometre two-lane highway from Daudkandi to Chittagong into a four-lane one has remained stalled for about two years due to inept consultancy, frequent change of project director and intervention in land-filling work by some ruling party men, according to ministry sources.
Taking the helm at the ministry in December last year, Obaidul Quader has had meetings with the concessionaires and also has been paying regular visits to the project sites to monitor the progress of work.
In a recent meeting with them, the minister has set a June 30 deadline to complete the upgrade of 25-km part between Comilla and Feni districts.
Ministry officials are hopeful another 57-km of the widened highway would be ready by December.
“The minister is under pressure to perform. He is desperate to have at least a part of the upgraded highway opened by the prime minister at the earliest,” noted a senior official at the communications ministry.
Roads and Highways Department sources said expansion of the Dhaka-Chittagong highway, known as the country’s economic lifeline, was essential as the road cannot accommodate around 30,000 vehicles a day.
Besides, a five-hour long Dhaka-Chittagong trip now takes around double the time.
A Tk 2,382 crore project was initiated in 2006 to upgrade the highway in three years, but successive governments had failed to finalise the scheme.
The present government in January 2010 had entered deals with Chinese Sinohydro Engineering, and Bangladeshi Reza Constructions Ltd and Taher Brothers Ltd to widen the road.
Though the project finally started early last year, it never gained any momentum as the concessionaires faced problems in removing illegal structures along the highway and collecting earth for land-filling, claimed contractors.
Ministry officials said 64 per cent of the land-filling work has been completed so far while the rest would be done by May.
The construction of 145 culverts out of a total 220 has been completed and 17 small bridges are being built.
The ministry recently has inked a deal to build three overpasses at as many level crossings on the highway. Tenders have been floated for the construction of five large bridges.
“Now we don’t have any crisis and the upgrading work has been going on in full swing,” Project Director Ibne Alam Hasan told The Daily Star.
He hoped the project will be complete by next year if the current pace of progress continues.