Highlights: The four-lane highway project
· 484 poles of Northern Electricity Supply Company on the project site
· Project started: June 2019; scheduled to be completed: June 2022
· In last 20 months:
o 40% work should have been completed
o 10% work actually done
· Nesco has not received any instruction about relocating the poles
· Initially, estimated project cost was Tk710 crore,
· Currently, the project cost stands at Tk1,020 crore.
· Failing to complete the work on time might increase the cost further.
Twenty months have gone past since a project to upgrade a Bogura highway to four lanes started in June 2019, but work has made only 10% progress.
The Tk1,020 crore job, with a three-year tenure supposed to end in June 2022, has hit a snag with electric poles hindering the 25-kilometre Banani-Mokamtala road's expansion work.
Despite repeated requests through letters and meetings over the last couple of years, the Northern Electricity Supply Company (Nesco) Limited has not yet taken any initiative to remove the electric poles, alleged the contractor and the project implementing agency.
The Roads and Highways Department is implementing the 190km four-lane roadwork from Elenga in Tangail to Modern Mor (intersection) in Rangpur, funded by the Asian Development Bank (ADB) under South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (Sasec) Road Connectivity Project-2. The highway expansion work is going on in nine sections.
Although work on other parts is progressing swiftly, the Banani-Mokamtala section in Bogura is witnessing slow progress.
Engineer Md Shariful Islam, project coordinator at Monico Limited, contractor of the Banani-Mokamatala section, said, "We got approval for working on the project 20 months ago. The work was a bit slow owing to the pandemic and the rainy season. But the electric poles are now mainly creating obstacles."
There are at least 600 electric poles of Nesco and the Rural Electrification Board (REB) between Banani and Matidali under the section.
The REB has been swift in removing their poles, but Nesco is yet to remove its 484 electric poles, creating problems in the project work, Shariful said.
"We cannot work because these poles are not being removed. Besides, no land has been acquired within the 3.5km Matidali to Gokul area. For this reason, part of our work has got stuck," he added.
"We will not be able to finish the work on time because of the electricity poles. We will lose about Tk12 crore as we could not do much work in the last 20 months. If the poles are not removed, the losses will continue to increase," the project coordinator commented.
Nesco Bogura's supervising engineer (management and conservation) Md Zakir Hossain refused to make any comment about the delay in removing the poles.
However, Nesco Head Office (Rajshahi) Executive Director (Technical and Operations) Engineer Md Abdul Aziz said, "The Roads and Highways Department has not yet fully acquired land for the roads. They did not give any instructions on where to relocate the poles. We cannot lift the poles and put them in ponds or holes. Yet, we have started our work though it is progressing slowly. It cannot be said that no work is being done at all."
Md Ahsan Habib, an engineer who manages the project in the Banani-Mokamtala section, said, "The electric poles are obstructing the project work a lot. If the expenditure increases because of it, the government will have to bear it."
He further said it is not yet clear whether the land acquisition has been done in the area from Matidali to Gokul.
However, Bogura Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) Abdul Malek said the land acquisition for the four-lane road has been completed.
He said, "There was a little complication in land acquisition from Matidali to Gokul, which has been resolved. There is no reason to think that the project has been halted for that."
Executive Engineer Joy Prakash Chowdhury, the spokesperson of the Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur four-lane highway project, said compensation for the removal of poles along the Banani-Mokamtala section was paid to Nesco, Bogura in June 2018.
He said despite sending letters and holding meetings at the managing director level, there was no progress in removing the poles. This matter has also been informed to the Ministry of Power and Energy. The ministry has also called the managing director of Nesco, but there is no result yet.
"Work on the project is going on in several districts, but Nesco in Bogura does not want to cooperate with us in any way. If the cost of the important work increases because of non-removal of the poles, we have to incur losses," Joy Prakash added.
Work on upgrading the Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur road to a four-lane highway was scheduled to be completed in August 2021. The project is being implemented in Tangail, Sirajganj, Bogura, Gaibandha and Rangpur districts. Under this project, 26 bridges with a length of 1,461 metres, a railway overpass of 411 metres and 11 steel footbridges will be constructed.
Besides, the construction of two new flyovers in the Bangabandhu Export Processing Zone in Sirajganj and Palashbari area of Gobindaganj has been added to the project.
Bangladesh is going to add eight new highways to the Sasec and proposed Bangladesh, China, India and Myanmar Economic Corridor to expand trade and commerce. The total length of these roads will be 600km, and the 190km road is part of it.