The incomplete four-lane highway in Sirajganj town is now a nightmare for local commuters.
Work on both ends of the highway, at Mulibari and at Nolka, has already been completed. But the middle portion, from Malshapara Katawabda to Circuit House Road, remains incomplete due to financial difficulties in land acquisition, making it very difficult for traffic.
Vehicles entering from the two ends of the road get stuck when they reach the incomplete portion of the highway, causing severe traffic jams every day.
Several transport workers, who use the route regularly, expressed frustration with the matter, saying it would take 10 minutes to cover the entire length of the road, if construction had been completed, but now it takes 30-40 minutes.
The construction of the four-lane 21-kilometre highway in Sirajganj town began in 2018 and was supposed to be completed in December 2020. But, even after the project deadline was extended twice, around 1.5 kilometres is yet to be completed.
Nobo Kumar Karmakar, a member of the Sirajganj Sharthorokkha Shongram Committee, said locals are keen to have the four-lane highway up and running. Since Sirajganj was declared a district in 1984, there has never been a highway here.
"But the official complications are not only resulting in the suffering of locals but it has put our dream at stake," he added.
The Business Standard approached the Additional Deputy Commissioner (Revenue) of Sirajganj, Md Mobarak Hossain, about the issue. He said, according to the 2017 Land Acquisition Act, the government is to pay three times the value of any given land, when the government takes over any private asset.
"So, under the law, the district administration needs Tk145 crore for land acquisition for the highway project. But the Roads and Highways Department has given only Tk67 crore so far. Without the full amount, we are not able to acquire the land needed to finish the rest of the highway," he added.
Executive Engineer of the Sirajganj Roads and Highways Department, Didarul Alam Tarafdar, said the Development Project Proposal (DPP) of the highway project initially approved Tk73 crore for land acquisition. But in keeping with the new law, the deputy commissioner's office sent a new estimate of Tk145 crore for the project.
"So, we have sent a revised DPP to the Ministry of Planning regarding the updated cost of land acquisition. Once it is approved, we will be able to pay the full amount," he added.
Both officials are hopeful that the revised DPP will be approved within the current financial year.