Dhaka Elevated Expressway: Fund crisis suspends construction at most sites

In just two months, the expressway construction company has sent at least 80 per cent of the workers on leave without pay.

Kawla Yard near the airport. Photo taken on Tuesday, 2 April 2024.
Naznin Akhter

The construction work of Dhaka Elevated Expressway is suspended everywhere except Hatirjheel area in the capital. Reportedly, the construction has been suspended in most places as the loan has been held up.

Talking to workers engaged in the construction work, it has been found that the work is suspended for a month in some places and for two in some others.

Several persons involved with the project told Prothom Alo that the construction company of the elevated expressway has sent at least 80 per cent workers on leave without pay in the last two months.

Visiting five construction sites (workstations-stockyards) on Tuesday, it was noticed that even at Hatirjheel the construction is going on with limited workers only. At the other four sites (Kawla, Moghbazar, Malibagh and Kamlapur), only a few workers including security staff and electricians have been retained.

The construction and operation company First Dhaka Elevated Expressway (FDEE) Company Limited has confirmed that the construction work has been suspended. Responding to Prothom Alo’s e-mail on 3 April, FDEE said that the company is in contact with various financial institutions to get loans for continuing with the construction.

the construction work is suspended for a month at Mogbazar yard.
Naznin Akhter

Referring to the Hatirjheel site, the project director AHM Sakhawat Akter however told Prothom Alo that the construction hasn’t stopped altogether, it’s ongoing. However, the project may take more than a year to complete for the loan suspension.  

Starting from Kawla near Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, this flyover will pass through Tejgaon, Mogbazar, Kamalapur following the rail tracts and then end at Kutubkhali on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway near Jatrabari. The entire flyover is 19.73 kilometers long.

Apart from Bangladesh, one company from Thailand and two from China have partnered in this mega project under public-private partnership (PPP) through investment and construction. The companies are Thailand-based Italian-Thai Development Public Company Limited, China’s Shandong International Economic and Technical Cooperation Group and Sinohydro Corporation Limited.

Italian-Thai Development formed a company named FDEE Company Limited for the construction and operation of the expressway. The three partner company owns consecutively 51, 34 and 15 per cent shares of the company. Bangladesh Bridge Authority is the executive organisation of the expressway.

The main construction cost of the project was estimated at Tk 89.4 billion (8,940 crores). According to the contract, the investing companies will provide 73 per cent of the cost of building the main structure. Meanwhile, 27 per cent will be provided by the Bangladesh government, which is known as Viability Gap Funding (VGF).

After learning that the construction work will not be completed by 30 March this year two Chinese lending agency have blocked the loan.
Bhaskon Khannabha, managing director, FDEE

After speaking to several people involved in the project, it has been found that in addition to the suspension of loans the conflict between the investing companies over the shares is also disrupting the construction of the project

Managing director of FDEE, Thai citizen Bhaskon Khannabha responding to a question at his office on 17 February had told Prothom Alo two of the Chinese investing companies, China Exim Bank and Industrial and Commercial Bank of China (ICBC) stopped the loan on 17 January after learning that the construction won’t be completed within 30 March of the current year.

The investing companies had signed loan agreements worth around Tk 95 billion with the two Chinese banks. Khannabha also admitted then that there was a dispute over shares between the three partner firms centering the loan.

The project was taken up back in 2009 and the construction contract was signed in 2011. The construction period was estimated at three and a half years. However the project couldn’t be executed in time. The official construction began on 1 January, 2020.

The 11km section between Kawla and Tejgaon was inaugurated on 2 September last year. Vehicular movement on this section started from the next day, 3 September. Meanwhile, the ramp adjacent to Bangladesh Film Development Corporation (BFDC) entrance was opened on this 20 March. Including all, the project cost stands at Tk 138.57 billion (13,857 crore).

Work has been continuing with limited staff at Hatirjheel yard.
Naznin Akhter

Work suspended for a month or two at some sites

Visiting Kawla yard near the airport on Tuesday, security guard Parimal was found sitting there. There was no work going on. Earlier, girders used to be constructed there to place on the pillars of the expressway.  

Going to one end of the rail line at Kawla, cranes were found lined up at the yard. People from the adjacent area said that the construction work is suspended at the yard now. When asked, security guard Parimal said that the work has been stopped for two months.  

While visiting the Moghbazar yard, eight to ten workers were found there. Three workers named Osman, Pakhi and Shameem said that there were 100 plus workers with them. The others are on leave and the work has been suspended for a month, they added.

Owner of Islam Engineering Workshop, Chan Mia and grocer Md Abul Kashem of the area confirmed that they haven’t seen any construction going on there for more than a month.

The section between Malibagh and Khilgaon area was closed found closed off with a tin barrier. No work was going on there and no security staff was spotted either.

At Titipara yard in Kamalapur, a few workers were found moving around. There was a pile of supplies on a vast open space. Nothing was happening there.  

Earlier, girders used to be constructed at this yard. When went to talk to them, electrician of the yard Selim Reza came forward. He said that the operation is suspended for a month. The workers are on leave and no girders are being constructed.

No work was going on at Titipara yard in Kamlapur area.
Naznin Akhter

Visiting the work station near Kamalapur railway station, it was noticed that no work was going on there. Through the gate, people were moving towards and from the Railway Colony and the station. Later, an electrician named Shahriar came out and said that the security guard was nearby and the operation there is suspended for a month.

However, workers were found to be working at Hatirjheel area during a visit there. Speaking to a worker it was learned that by closing off the Tejgaon work station, the workers of that yard have been employed at Hatirjheel.

That worker named Mehedi Hasan said that he used to work at Tejgaon work station before. There were about 70 of them there. Employing 40 of them at Hatirjheel, the rest of them have been sent on leave. Work continues at Hatijheel from 6:00am till 5:00pm. He makes rod cages.  

Speaking on the matter of leave, several workers said that they were told the company is in bad condition. Once the construction restarts they will be called again later.

One of the workers sent on leave, Md Ibrahim (30) told Prothom Alo that he worked for ten months and was sent on leave on this 21 March. A first he used to tie rod structures at Tejgaon work station. Back then he would receive more than Tk 18,000 in monthly salary.

Including overtime, he used to earn about Tk 26,000-27,000 a month then. After five months he was made a signalman at Moghbazar for the same salary. He got the job as a security guard for lesser wages later.

* The report, originally published in the print and online editions of Prothom Alo, has been rewritten in English by Nourin Ahmed Monisha

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