# Only 30pc progress so far
# Land acquisition, fund mobilisation key problems
Dhaka elevated expressway, a key public-private partnership (PPP) project, has been limping for 10 years mainly thanks to complexities involving land acquisition and fund mobilisation by the private partner.
Since its start in 20211, the project so far advanced only 30 per cent and it had to go through a design change for the long delay.
The 19.73km elevated expressway from the Airport to Kutubkhali of Dhaka-Chattogram road is being constructed to establish a direct north-south road link to ease traffic gridlock in the capital.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally inaugurated the work of the four-year project on November 30 in 2011. But the work started two years later in 2013 because of land acquisition-related issues.
Bridges Division is implementing the project and its private partner is Thailand-based Italian-Thai Development Company. The government is bearing 27 per cent of the project cost and the PPP partner will bear 73 per cent of the cost.
According to design, it will have 31 ramps totalling 27km to help vehicles climb and descend.
Although the project work started much earlier, the project could not be complete even after four time extensions. The delay caused by land acquisition-related also led to financing problems.
For the delay, the government had to scrap its previous deal with its private partners and seal a new deal in 2013.
The PPP project became uncertain after its contractor failed to manage funds. In August 2014, Ital-Thai signed an agreement with a Chinese firm to manage funds, but the move yielded no quick solution to the financing problem.
It was not until the end of 2019 the contractor managed substantial funds and began work in full swing. Before that, the contractor carried out some work with its own money.
The project director AHM Shakhawat Akhtar said: “The issues with the project have been addressed and there are no problems anymore relating to land or financing.”
“The corona pandemic slowed down the project work, but now the work is going on in full swing. We hope to finish the project as per the plan,” he added.
He said they have a plan to open 11km of the expressway up to Tejgaon railway station, including some portion of the second phase, next year.
With the increased pace of work, the first phase advanced 66.25 per cent, the second phase 21.50 per cent and the third phase advanced only 2.33 per cent, according to project officials. Overall, the project progress now stands at 30.50 per cent.
So far, the construction of 2,500 piers has been completed, including 1,430 piers out of 1,442 in the first phase.
Besides, work of construction yard and other infrastructure in Banani and Tejgaon railway stations has also been completed.
Test piling has been completed in five spots and work of piling, pile cap and column is underway.
Pile drive for central control building at Kuril area has ended and now pile cap work is going on there.
However, work was delayed in the Moghbazar rail crossing to Kutubkhali segment as its work is yet to start although land acquisition has ended.
In 2013, the project cost was revised upward to over Tk 89.20 billion from Tk 87.03 billion original cost.
Its new deadline was 2021, but it was pushed to the end of 2022 after the corona pandemic.
BUET teacher Prof Dr Shamsul Hoque, an expert panel member of the scheme, said: “It was one of the two top priority projects of the government when the project was planned in 2010.”
It had been planned to lower the sufferings of the city dwellers caused by large infrastructure projects in Dhaka to be implemented in the capital in line with the Strategic Transport Plan (STP) for Dhaka, he informed.
Besides these complexities, the project had to encounter design-related problems, which consumed 10 years for a four-year project, the communications sector expert pointed out.
At the start of the project, it was said that there would be no necessity for land acquisition as the land belongs to Bangladesh Railway. Later, the land problem became key issue of the scheme, he added.
The investor was supposed to take bank loan from their country for a period of 42 months, but a PPP project loses its actual flavour when the project duration extends to 10 years, he said.
Meanwhile, different government agencies have come up with several other development projects for the capital, which have confronted with the Dhaka elevated expressway project, Prof Shamsul also informed.