The Sasec corridor, which involves Tk16,918 crore, will improve the country's road connectivity with Nepal, India, Myanmar, and China
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) on Tuesday approved the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (Sasec) Dhaka-Sylhet Corridor Road Development project, aiming to ensure Bangladesh's overall economic development.
The Sasec corridor, which involves Tk16,918.59 crore, will improve the country's road connectivity with Nepal, India, Myanmar, and China.
Ecnec gave the approval in its regular weekly meeting held with its Chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair. She joined the meeting virtually from her official residence Ganabhaban while ministers, state ministers and secretaries concerned joined it from the NEC Conference Room.
Planning Minister MA Mannan briefed reporters after the meeting about its outcome.
The planning minister said a total of nine projects were approved involving an overall estimated cost of Tk19,844.57 crore. Of the approved nine projects, six are new while three others are revised ones.
"Of the total project cost, the government will provide Tk6,599.88 crore while the remaining Tk13,244.69 crore will come as project assistance," Mannan said.
He said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the meeting said tolls will be realised once the Sasec corridor project is implemented and suggested keeping “earmarked accounts” in order to ensure necessary maintenance works of roads and highways.
Mannan said the perception and directive of the prime minister regarding tolls is that the "days for delivering services for free are over" and people need to come out of the culture of receiving free services.
He also hoped that the project cost would be recovered within 15 years after the start of realising tolls and the Prime Minister renewed her directive to realise tolls on major highways.
Besides, she instructed the Roads and Highways department to construct necessary rest houses, coffee shops with washrooms, changing rooms for women along big highways like Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Sylhet.
"It's very important that we're looking at the East internationally," the planning minister said.
The Roads and Highways Department under the Road Transport and Highways Division will implement the Sasec corridor project by December 2026.
Out of the total project cost of Tk16,918.59 crore, Tk13,244.69 crore will come from the Asian Development Bank (ADB) as a loan while Tk3,673.90 crore from the government.
Once the project is implemented, Bangladesh's road transport network will be linked with Asian highway network, Bimstec corridor, Saarc corridor, and regional road network.
The main objectives of the project are to upgrade the 209.328-km Dhaka-Sylhet highway into four-lane one alongside two service lanes on both sides of the highway for slow-moving vehicles, straightening the existing curves of the highway, building necessary u-loops, intersections, and thus ensuring speedy and uninterrupted vehicular movement.
The main project operations include 24.54 million cubic metres of earth work, 7.27 million cubic metres of flexible pavement, 292,000 cubic metres of flexible concrete pavement on service lanes, construction of 305 culverts, 66 bridges, seven flyovers, six railway over-bridges, 26 footbridges.
In response to a question, the planning minister said the economic return of the Sasec project will be huge and each affected person for the project will get compensation.
Replying to another question, Planning Commission Member Mamun Al Rashid said the per-cubic metre construction cost of the Sasec corridor project would be less than the Elenga-Katikumrul Highway development project.
Regarding the approval of Network development and expansion of the Internet protocol of BTCL with Tk945.90 crore, Mannan said the capacity and coverage of BTCL would be further enhanced through this project.
He said the Prime Minister at the meeting noted that the capacity of BTCL and TeleTalk should be further enhanced towards the government's initiatives for Digital Bangladesh.
Referring to the 1st revision of construction of the first terminal and ancillary facilities for the Payra Sea Port project with an additional cost of Tk534.65 crore, Mannan said the entire area would get a facelift once the project is implemented.
He said the prime minister also asked the authorities concerned to bring and thus place the total work plan over Payra Sea Port at the next Ecnec meeting.
Replying to a question, Planning Commission member Mamun Al Rashid said the design for the Payra port project has already been formulated and hopefully the first terminal of the port would be completed within the next two years.
Talking about the 2nd revision of the project on riverbank protection on both sides from the erosion of Halda River at Hathazari and Rouzan upazilas under Chattogram district with an additional cost of Tk105.97 crore, Mannan said the prime minister asked the authorities concerned to make sure the habitats of the mother fish is not damaged during its implementation.
She suggested taking advice from scientists in this regard and directed the relevant authorities to complete the dredging operations in rivers at one go.
While giving approval to the Cashew nut and coffee research, development and expansion project with Tk211.85 crore, Sheikh Hasina suggested conducting more research in this regard as well as producing the saplings of cashew nut.
She also suggested using freezer vans for transporting and marketing the perishable items.
The other projects approved at the meeting are Modernization of Bangladesh Betar, Sylhet Centre and installation of digital broadcast equipment, 1st revised with an additional cost of Tk31.07 crore, West Gopalganj water management project, 1st phase with Tk135.51 crore, Protecting Daulatkhan Pourashava, Chokighat, and other vulnerable areas under Daulatkhan upazila in Bhola from the erosion of the Meghna River with Tk522.56 crore and installation of family nutrition gardens at the uncultivated barren land and homesteads with Tk438.47 crore.