The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) today approved a Taka 16,918.59 crore South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) Dhaka-Sylhet Corridor Road Development project in a bid to ensure overall economic development by improving regional road connectivity.
The approval came from the 22nd ECNEC meeting of the current fiscal year (FY21) held with ECNEC chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The premier chaired the meeting virtually from her official Ganobhaban residence while ministers, state ministers and secretaries concerned joined the meeting from the NEC Conference Room in the city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area.
Briefing reporters after the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan said that a total of nine projects were approved today involving an overall estimated cost of Taka 19,844.57 crore. “Of the total project cost, Taka 6,599.88 crore will come from the government of Bangladesh while the rest Taka 13,244.69 crore as project assistance.”
Of the approved nine projects, six are new while three others are revised projects.
The planning minister said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the meeting said once the SASEC corridor project is implemented, tolls will be realized.
She also suggested for keeping ‘earmark accounts’ in order to ensure necessary maintenance works of roads and highways.
Mannan said the perception and directive of the premier regarding tolls is that – “the day for delivering services free of cost is over”. This means the country’s people would have to come out from the culture of receiving services without paying any amount.
The prime minister also renewed her directive to realize tolls on the major highways.
Besides, she also ordered the Roads and Highways Department to construct necessary rest houses, coffee shops with wash rooms, changing rooms for women along the big highways like Dhaka-Chattogram and Dhaka-Sylhet roads.
The planning minister said the SASEC corridor will improve the country’s road connectivity with Nepal, India, Myanmar and China. “It’s very important that we’re looking towards the East internationally.”
The Roads and Highways Department under the Road Transport and Highways Division will implement the SASEC corridor project by December 2026.
Out of the total project cost of Taka 16,918.59 crore, Taka 13,244.69 crore will come from the ADB as loan while Taka 3,673.90 crore from the government of Bangladesh.
Once the project is implemented, the road transport network of the country will be linked with the Asian highway network, BIMSTEC corridor, SAARC corridor, and regional road network.
The main objectives of the project are to upgrade the 209.328 KM Dhaka-Sylhet highway into four-lane alongside two service lanes on both sides of the highway for slow moving vehicles, straitening the existing curves of the highway, building necessary U-loops, intersections, and thus ensuring speedy and uninterrupted vehicular movement.
The main project operations include 245.42 lakh cubic meter of earth work, 72.73 lakh cubic meter flexible pavement, 2.92 lakh cubic meter flexible concrete pavement on service lanes, construction of 305 culverts, 66 bridges, seven flyovers, six railway over bridges, 26 foot over bridges.
Mannan said at the very outset of the meeting, the Prime Minister unwrapped the cover of the final printed version of the 8th Five Year Plan.
He said the premier extended thanks to the officials concerned especially the Planning Commission for their role and activities to process the development projects during this COVID-19 pandemic.
The minister said the prime minister said she eagerly waits for Monday to chair the Cabinet meeting. But, she more eagerly waits for Tuesday to chair the ECNEC meeting to ultimately pull ahead the country’s development spree.
Answering to a question, Mannan said the economic return of the SASEC project will be huge and each affected people for the project will get compensation.
He hoped that the project cost would be realized within 15 years after the start of collecting tolls.
Replying to another question, Planning Commission member Mamun Al Rashid said the per cubic meter construction cost under the SASEC corridor project would be less than the cost under Elenga-Katikumrul highway development project.
Regarding the approval of the project Network development and expansion of Internet protocol of BTCL with Taka 945.90 crore, Mannan said the capacity and coverage of BTCL would be further enhanced through this project.
He said the premier in the meeting noted that the capacity of BTCL and Teletalk should be further enhanced in line with the government’s initiatives for Digital Bangladesh.
Referring to the 1st revision of construction of first terminal and ancillary facilities for the Payra Sea Port project with an additional cost of Taka 534.65 crore, Mannan said once the project is implemented, the entire area would get a facelift.
He said the Prime Minister also asked the authorities concerned to bring and thus place the total work plan over Payra Sea Port in the next ECNEC meeting.
Replying to a question, Planning Commission member Mamun Al Rashid said that the design for the Payra sea port project has already been framed and hopefully the first terminal of the port would be completed within the next two years.
Talking about the 2nd revision of River bank protection on both sides from the erosion of Halda River at Hathazari and Rouzan upazilas under Chattogram district with an additional cost of Taka 105.97 crore, Mannan said the premier asked the authorities concerned so that the habitat of the mother fishes does not get ruined while implementing the project.
If necessary, she suggested taking the advice of the scientists in this regard.
The prime minister also directed the authorities concerned to complete the dredging operations of rivers in one go.
While giving approval to the Cashew nut and coffee research, development and expansion project with Taka 211.85 crore, Sheikh Hasina suggested for conducting more research in this regard as well as producing the saplings of cashew nut.
She also suggested for using freezer vans for transporting and marketing the perishable items.
The other projects approved in the meeting are Modernization of Bangladesh Betar, Sylhet Centre and installation of digital broadcast equipments, 1st revised with an additional cost of Taka 31.07 crore, West Gopalganj water management project, 1st phase with Taka 135.51 crore, Protecting Daulatkhan Pourashava, Chokighat and other vulnerable areas under Daulatkhan upazila in Bhola from the erosion of River Meghna with Taka 522.56 crore and installation of family nutrition gardens at the uncultivated barren land and at homesteads with Taka 438.47 crore.