Dhaka-Ashulia elevated expressway upsets stakeholders

The much-anticipated Bangladesh’s Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway project, slated to be completed by 2026, has experienced considerable setbacks and delays, raising concerns among stakeholders and the public.

Despite Chinese loan approvals, government fund release, and the project’s official inauguration last November, there has been little progress made in recent months, casting doubt on the project’s timely completion.

Initiated in October 2017 with an initial completion deadline of June 2022, the 24 km expressway faced a four-year extension. Although construction work officially began in November last year, the project’s design still needs to be completed, further impeding progress. Recently a letter was sent to the contractor, seeking an explanation for the prolonged delay in designing the expressway.

Sources reveal that the government had approved the Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway project in October 2017, envisioning its completion by the end of June 2022. However, the subsequent four-year extension period failed to yield any substantial progress.

In September 2022, the Bangladesh government disbursed the first installment of USD 32.4 million to the Chinese contractor The China National Machinery Import-Export Corporation (CMC) representing 15 percent of the project cost. The remaining 85 percent, totaling USD170.5 million, was paid by the Chinese government in October of the same year.

Resolving complexities within the loan agreement, the contracting firm jointly appointed Tecnica y Projects of Spain, DOHWA of South Korea, and DDC of Bangladesh as consultants for the project’s design review and supervision.

However, a letter from the supervisory company, Typsa, addressed to CMC on April 13, 2023, stated that the contractor had yet to initiate most of the construction works.

According to the supervisory company’s letter to the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), the contracting firm complained of several limitations. In particular, complications in land acquisition. Drawings should be prioritized as the contractor could have started work on sections 1 and 3 on some sections or parts thereof and at present this is not possible due to lack of design.

Those concerned say that due to the slow pace of the project, the cost of the work will increase. Although they blame the Bangladesh government’s currency devaluation.
It is learned that although CMC was selected for the project, they subcontracted the entire project to 3 other Chinese sub-contractors. which is non-contractual.

Stakeholders say the CMC should at least design the project after more than 5 years of signing the contract and receiving payment. As this project is a G2G project between China and Bangladesh. In that case, the government should monitor the CMC to ensure that the Chinese CMC fulfills its commitments and the time frame should have been very strictly agreed by the relevant authorities from the beginning of the BBA. Care should also be taken not to allow themselves to be manipulated by CMC officials.

While repeatedly tried to contact the project director, Shahabuddin Khan regarding the status of the project, he remained unreachable.

This project of public importance will connect Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport with Abdullahpur, Ashulia, Bypail, and Dhaka Export Processing Zones on the Nabinagar-Chandra highway. People from 30 districts will be able to travel to the capital quickly and easily. Under the project, a 10.83 km ramp, two 1.95 km long flyovers, 14.28 km four-lane road, and 18 km drains on both sides of the expressway will be constructed, project officials said.

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