Tk 40b for land acquisition alone in Bhanga-Benapole 4-lane project

The government is working on a project to upgrade the 129-kilometre highway from Bhanga in Faridpur to Benapole in Jashore to a four-lane one, where a whooping Tk 40.17 billion has been earmarked only for land acquisition. 

The proposal of the project to be funded from local sources has already been submitted to the planning commission.   

However, such a high-cost project during the ongoing economic woes has been called into question.

The planning commission itself dissented from the project proposal and said the project cost is quite irrational and overestimated.

Other than land acquisition, another Tk 2.19 billion will be spent on services and other administrative purposes of the project. It will take the total project cost to Tk 42.36 billion. 

This is basically an arrangement to reach the money to the partymen in the election year
Former secy Fouzul Kabir Khan

The authorities would acquire land from Bhanga and Nagarkanda upazilas in Faridpur, Muksudpur and Kashiani upazilas in Gopalganj, Lohagara and sadar upazilas in Narail, and Bagherpara, Jhikargacha, Sharsha and sadar upazilas in Jashore. 

Currently, there is a two-lane highway from Bhanga to Benapole and it will be upgraded to a four-lane one after the acquisition of nearly 967 acres of land on both sides.  

The duration of the land acquisition project has been determined from October 2022 to June 2025. However, a separate project will be undertaken to expand the two-lane highway to a four-lane one. 

Global organizations, including the International Monetary Fund (IMF), World Bank, and Asian Development Bank (ADB), forecast that the Bangladesh economy would be under pressure for the next two to three years, due to the global economic crisis triggered by the Russia-Ukraine war. 

The government has already adopted austerity measures regarding development projects and reduced costs in some cases. 

Fouzul Kabir Khan, former secretary and infrastructure specialist, said there is no logical ground behind spending such a whooping amount on such a project. 

“This is basically an arrangement to reach the money to the partymen in the election year. Leaders and activists of the (ruling) party will buy land in the project area in the meantime. We have witnessed a similar instance during the purchase of land for Chandpur university. The influential ones had bought lands there earlier,” he explained. 

The former secretary also said the revenue is not being collected as per the demand. He found no point, but political motive, in taking up the self-funded land acquisition project during this trying time. 

However, the project proposal noted that the initiative has been taken to facilitate smooth road communication of the south-western area with other regions, including the capital. 

The planning commission’s project evaluation committee (PEC) held a meeting on the land acquisition project recently. The officials of the roads and highways department, which is implementing the project, also attended the PEC meeting. 

According to the meeting minutes, the cost of land acquisition in the project is exorbitant in comparison to other similar projects and, hence, there is a risk of overvaluation. 

The planning ministry sources said they are supposed to be briefed on the reason behind the overestimation in the next PEC meeting. 

Cost rises by Tk 12b for 150 acres

The land acquisition project was taken in 2020 with a cost of Tk 27.87 billion against 817 acres of land, when a 133-kilometre stretch was taken into account. 

A PEC meeting on 3 September last year suggested a revision in the proposal. The roads and highways department later restructured the proposal and submitted it to the ministry in mid-2022. 

In the new proposal, the project stretch decreased by four kilometres, but the to-be-acquired land area increased by nearly 150 acres. Now, a total of Tk 40.17 billion will be spent on land acquisition and compensation. 

The additional chief engineer (planning and maintenance) of the roads and highways department, Syed Moinul Hasan, could not be reached for the department’s statement, despite repeated attempts over the phone.