The Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane project has once again been left hanging in the balance over the complexity of arrangement of funds for constructing the country's important highway that will serve as a regional corridor, sources said.
They said construction work on the 226-kilometre road might be delayed by at least one year, as the authorities were unable to arrange funds for the project.
The Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges (MoRTB) could not take any decision on the project funding in the current fiscal year.
After a botched negotiation with the China Harbor Engineering Company Limited (CHEC) for the project funding, there was another proposal and that was also from a Chinese company, the sources said.
Towards the end of 2017, the MoRTB took a move to implement the Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane project with the government funding after the year-long negotiation with the China Harbor yielded no results.
A memorandum of understanding (MoU) was signed with the CHEC on October 9, 2016 upon its interest to develop and upgrade the Dhaka-Sylhet corridor under a government-to-government arrangement.
The MoU was later cancelled as the company was not ready to reduce the proposed cost of Tk 170 billion.
But the ministry's fresh move to do the work with the government funding stalled after the Planning Commission refused to approve the development project proposal to implement it entirely with government funding.
It recommended that the Roads and Highways Department (RHD), the implementing agency, search for development partners.
However, before the end of the last government's tenure, the then Finance Ministry recommended a proposal of the second Chinese company which also showed interest in constructing the corridor on a government-to-government (G2G) basis.
Ministry officials said they received the copy of the proposal of the China Road Bridge Construction (CRBC) signed by former Finance Minister AMA Muhith recently from the Ministry of Finance for taking a decision in this regard.
"We are now facing a fresh problem with the Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane project. Following the last Chinese company's proposal, we are not interested in starting again negotiation with the new Chinese company," said an official preferring not to be named.
Though the ministry might seek the Prime Minister's intervention in connection with the Chinese proposal, sources said, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) had been verbally requested to fund the project.
They said as the ADB had assisted in advancing the project through providing support for its feasibility study and preparation of its detailed design, it might be interested in funding it.
In this situation, the ministry officials said, the Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane project might be delayed by one or two years just for arrangement of the fund.
The RHD estimated the cost of the project at Tk 126.65 billion after rescheduling its construction rate in 2015. The initial project cost after feasibility study and detailed design was estimated at Tk 91.84 billion.
The cost was estimated for construction of 286 kilometres of the Dhaka-Sylhet Highway which will lead to Tamabil that will serve as a regional corridor linked with the Indian State of Meghalaya.
However, the RHD has taken a separate project to acquire land for the project at a cost of Tk 38.16 billion. The project was approved by the ECNEC in October 2018.
Sources said the ADB included it in its pipeline projects for funding in 2018 soon after it completed the feasibility and detailed design work in 2015. But due to the government interest in the Chinese proposal afterward, the lending agency dropped the project from its list.
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