According to the documents, the elevated expressway project was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) in July 2017. The project was supposed to be completed in June 2020.
Initially, the construction cost was estimated at around Tk 32.5 billion. The revised Development Project Proposal (DPP) has recently been submitted to the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, with a new expenditure of about Tk 45.50 billion and a proposal to extend the duration of the project up to June 2024.
CDA executive engineer and project director, Mahfuzur Rahan told Prothom Alo that the revised DPP has not been approved yet.
Sectors where the expenditure is increasing
Initially the cost for the construction of the main infrastructure was estimated at around Tk 25.12 billion. However, now the proposed cost is estimated at around Tk 34.52 billion. Therefore, the cost has gone up by Tk 9.4 billion.
As per the project documents, instead of Tk 180 million, Tk 2 billion will be spent for the removal of electric poles. The additional money will be spent for setting up LED lights, land acquisition, compensation for the establishments and for the renovation of the roads.
Some 10 new sectors of expenditure have been added to the revised DPP, which were not included in the main DPP. The additional cost for this is Tk 1.63 billion. The new sectors include installation of 200 close circuit cameras for security purposes, construction of toll plaza, creating a water sewerage system, beautification, construction of a building and control room for monitoring and installation of a sound proof system.
The CDA showed several reasons for the increase in the expenditure. They said the construction site of the elevated expressway had to be changed due to objections from several organisations.
They had to change the shape of the piles, piers and pile caps of the elevated expressway as per the suggestion from the consulting agency.
Initially the plan was to construct a PC girder bridge on the Dhaka-Chattogram rail line in the Dewanghat area of the city. Now it has been designed as a 'balanced cantilever progressive box girder'. As there is not enough space for the construction of the ramp of the elevated expressway, the consulting agency has designed a 'RCC box girder' instead of a PC girder.
'Speculation' and 'rush'
The officials affiliated with the project have admitted that the project was undertaken hastily and the cost was estimated based on assumption.
Additional secretary Qazi Wachhi Uddin, chief of the cost review committee of the Ministry of Housing and Public Works, also admitted about the abruptness during developing the project based on assumption.
Speaking to Prothom Alo over the phone, he said, "Even the feasibility study of the project was not done properly. The estimated cost could have been finalised during the initial stages if the DPP was prepared properly."
He further said, "We had to change the pattern of the construction works and the design while conducting the feasibility study with the experts. As a result, the project costs have increased."
Qazi Hasan Bin Shams, chief engineer of CDA, claimed that the port authority did not have any objection regarding the construction site and the design of the project. However, after the construction works began, they objected regarding the construction of the elevated expressway on the main road. Therefore, the design had to be changed. For the same reason, the costs for land acquisition and compensation for establishments have also increased.
However, he too admitted that the project was taken up without any proper feasibility study.
Meanwhile, according to the relevant sources, the project's costs have gone up due to the rise in the prices of construction material as the project was not completed in due time.
'Same scenario all over the country'
It is expected that the traffic congestion of the city will reduce once the construction of the elevated expressway is finished as it is being constructed over the busiest road. However, the delay in the construction work has caused immense sufferings for the city dwellers. In the last monsoon, people have suffered a lot due to bad conditions of the roads in the construction area.
Speaking to Prothom Alo, Shamsul Haque, professor of the civil engineering department at the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), said, "The feasibility study report was not conducted properly during the initial stages. The project costs increased uncontrollably after approval. The scenario is the same all over the country, not only in Chattogram. This is a very bad culture."
He further said the ministry was more responsible for developing this culture than the agencies concerned. However, the Planning Commission has more responsibility than the ministry.
*This report appeared on the print and online versions of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Ashish Basu