Lack of open space hits metro rail projects

Munima Sultana | Published: September 25, 2018 10:51:52 | Updated: September 26, 2018 10:51:18

Metro-rail construction squeezes the scope of vehicular movement on the busy road from Mirpur to Agargaon in the capital, intensifying gridlock in the areas — FE Photo by KAZ Sumon

The scarcity of open space in the city is gradually limiting the scope of constructing metro rail, project officials and experts said.

They said the ongoing metro rail projects have already hit a snag due to lack of adequate space for depots and construction yards.

According to them, one hectare of land is required to set up both construction yard and depot for each kilometre of metro rail. It means that 20-km MRT project needs 20 hectares of land for depots and another 20 hectares of land for construction yards.

Under the city's 20-year Strategic Transport Plan (STP), five mass rapid transits (MRT) or metro rails have been proposed for different corridors, covering stretches of over 100 km. Of them, only MRT line-6 is now under construction.

Sources said the construction of MRT line-6 is facing problem for lack of required space for construction yards along its 20-km corridor. However, land for depot was managed following the prime minister's intervention.

After failing to get required land for construction yards, sources said, Dhaka Mass Transit Company (DMTC), the executing agency of metro rail projects, has recently allowed the contractors of MRT-6 to use public spaces, including parks, for construction yards.

The contractors have already been allowed to use a portion of Suhrawardi Udyan and a park at Farmgate for this purpose, they added.

Experts think that although DMTC officials said the parks would be used as construction yards for a certain period, the open spaces would remain occupied for an unlimited period.

Some also believe that the parks could not be recovered again.

It is learnt that the cost of metro rail projects may go up two or three times mainly due to acquisition of huge private lands.

Sources said DMTC has already proposed acquiring more than 30 hectares of private land at Purbachal for setting up the depot for MRT line-1 which is now at the design stage.

But this MRT will also need 30 hectares of land for construction yards along its corridor from Airport Railway Station to Kamalapur Railway Station. The sites for these yards have not yet been selected.

The cost of the MRT-1 project is likely to be nearly 2.5 times higher than that of MRT-6 because of land acquisition, they added.

The Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development project office could manage 24 hectares of land for setting up depot for the MRT-6 from Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) to Uttra 3rd phase project site.

Different government agencies, including Dhaka North City Corporation, have declined to give their lands to the project office for the construction yards.

The MRT-6 is being constructed from Uttara 3rd phase project site to Motijheel on elevated corridor. At least four construction yards are required for the 20-km corridor.

DMTC officials said construction yards should be set up close to the MRT corridor so that inbuilt structures can be shifted easily. Due to traffic jam, construction yards cannot be set up outside the city.

The cost of MRT-1 project is likely to be more than Tk 600 billion due to acquisition of private land for depots. Though the project's Japanese financier expressed reservations about the use of private lands, it has finally accepted the government proposal, finding no other alternatives.

Under such circumstances, the cost of upcoming MRTs is also likely to be much higher than MRT-6 as those are planned to be constructed underground. The cost of MRT-6 was estimated at around Tk 220 billion.

A project consultant said it would be difficult to implement metro rail projects if efforts are not taken to conserve open spaces around the city immediately.

The MRT-6 project suffered many problems at the beginning of the planning stage due to the construction of Hanif flyover. For this reason, the alignment of MRT-6 had to be changed towards Motijheel area to reach Sayedabad.

But the consultants have yet to find ways to address the issue of the corridor expansion from Motijheel Shapla Chattar to Sayedabad due to lack of enough space.

Consultants also find it difficult to expand MRT-6 up to Joydevpur because of another expressway project there.

Unplanned construction of flyovers and expressways has created obstruction to not only MRT-6 but also upcoming MRTs, according to the consultants.

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