Dhaka,  Thursday
25 April 2024

12 mega projects to change country’s economy

Sanjay Adhikari Rony

Published: 08:02, 5 March 2024

12 mega projects to change country’s economy

Photo : Messenger

In Bangladesh, a wave of transformational endeavours is sweeping the nation, with over a dozen mega projects poised to redefine its economic landscape. Envisioned as catalysts for monumental change, these ambitious initiatives hold the promise of reshaping the very fabric of Bangladesh's economy. Proponents of these projects believe that their successful implementation will not only obliterate unemployment rates but also elevate Bangladesh to a position of prominence on the global stage. 

Yet, amid the fervour of anticipation, economists and experts caution that the timely completion of these projects is paramount for realising their full potential. As Bangladesh embarks on this journey of economic revitalisation, the spotlight shines brightly on the fate of these twelve mega projects and their potential to chart a new course for the nation.

Currently ongoing mega projects in the country include the Khulna-Mongla Railway, Dhaka-Gazipur BRT Project, Dhaka Elevated Expressway, Airport Terminal III, underground Metro rail, Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant, Matarbari Coal Power Plant, Padma Bridge Rail Link Project, Uttara to Kamalapur Metrorail, Metro rail Northern Route (from Hemayetpur to Bhatara), Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway, and Matarbari Deep Sea Port.

The Awami League government has ‘partially inaugurated’ several of the ongoing mega projects before the last national election without completing them. There are also projects whose construction work has not been completed despite the extension of the period. Thus, as the cost has increased, the common people have also suffered from various problems, including dust and noise caused by the construction work for a long time.

Dr. Zahid Hussain, former chief economist of the World Bank’s Dhaka office, told The Daily Messenger that as a developing country, working on so many mega projects together is a real adventure. There is no doubt that the economic picture of the country will change once the projects are completed. They will also play a supportive role in all the challenges that Bangladesh will face after transitioning from LDC.

“However, in this case, one thing should be taken care of, that is to complete the projects within a certain time. Otherwise, as the project cost increases, so does the suffering. And in the context of our country, this is happening in most of the projects. As a result, there have been allegations of corruption and irregularities in various projects at various times,” he added.

It is known that the Khulna-Mongla railway project was supposed to be completed in three years, but 13 years have passed. The cost of the project has more than doubled over time. The director of the project, Arifuzzaman, said that the line is now ready for commercial traffic after an era. He told The Daily Messenger, “Our main construction work is over. Now some finishing work is going on. Trains will be able to start running commercially by mid or end of March.”

To facilitate the transportation of goods to India, Nepal, and Bhutan under the transit facility, the government undertook the project of establishing a railway from Phultala Railway Station in Khulna to Mongla Port in 2010. After various complications, the construction work started in September 2016. Initially, the cost of the project was estimated at Tk 1,721 crore. It has increased several times in the last decade, and currently, the expenditure has reached Tk 4,260 crore. Still, the work is not finished.

The Dhaka-Gazipur route’s BRT project has also passed a decade. But in 2012, after the government's approval, it was said to complete the work within four years. The project director, Mahirul Islam Khan, said that the project's work is finally going to be completed. He said that vehicles will be able to move in December this year.

The Awami League government partially inaugurated the Dhaka Elevated Expressway on September 2 last year, ahead of the elections, before the entire construction work was completed. As a result, half of the 20 km expressway, i.e., from the airport to Farmgate, is now in use. The rest of the expressway is expected to be completed and opened for traffic by June this year.

However, project director AHMS Akhtar said, “It will not be possible to complete the work fully within four months. We are moving towards our target. Even then, it may take a little more time.”

Like the Dhaka Elevated Expressway, the ‘soft opening’ of the third terminal of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka has been announced without the completion of the construction work. About 93 percent of this terminal has been completed.

After the metro rail, the government has started the construction of the first underground metro rail in the country. A total of 21 stations are to be constructed on the 31 km metro line under this project. And another metro rail is being constructed on the Purbachal route from Dhaka’s Natun Bazar to Narayanganj’s Pitalganj for about 11 km.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the construction work of the underground metro rail on February 2, 2023. But after a year, there is no progress in the project. The underground metro rail is already one of the most expensive projects in the country. The estimated cost of the project is around Tk 52,561 crore.

Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant is one of the mega projects on top of the Bangladesh government’s priority list. In October 2013, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina officially inaugurated the first phase of construction of the nuclear power plant. After more than a decade, the power plant is now on the verge of commercial production.

At the end of this year, electricity will be produced in one of the two reactors, said the project director Shaukat Akbar. He told The Daily Messenger, “Hopefully, by September this year, we will be able to go into production and people will be able to enjoy the electricity as it is directly connected to the national grid.”

Meanwhile, the government is constructing a coal-based thermal power plant with a capacity of 1,200 MW at Matarbari in Maheshkhali, Cox’s Bazar. It is more expensive than other power plants of the same capacity. “We completed the work a month ahead of schedule. The first unit started producing electricity commercially last December, which has already been connected to the national grid. The second unit also started trial power generation last January,” project director Abul Kalam Azad told The Daily Messenger.

The government is constructing a 172 km long rail track from Dhaka to Jashore under the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project. About five years later, the partial inauguration of the project was announced before the twelfth parliamentary elections. On October 10, 2023, about an 82 km section from Gendaria in Dhaka to Bhanga in Faridpur was opened for train traffic.

At present, the construction of the section from Bhanga to Jashore is ongoing. According to the project, the work is scheduled to be completed by June this year. Overall, more than 90 percent of the project is said to have been completed.

Besides, some other projects are in progress now. Metrorail, which has been completed from Uttara to Motijheel, is now being extended by one kilometer to Kamalapur. About 26 percent of the construction of the new section has been completed. The entire work will be completed in 2025.

Simultaneously, land acquisition for the construction of about a 20 km long line on the Northern route of the metro rail has been completed. Starting from Hemayetpur in Savar, the route will go up to Bhatara. The construction of this route is scheduled to be completed in 2028.

As for the second elevated expressway, the Dhaka-Ashulia Elevated Expressway will be launched in June 2026. Already 30 percent of the project has been completed. Meanwhile, the Matarbari Port Development Project has been taken up at a cost of Tk 17,777 crore to establish the country’s first and only deep-sea port.

Dr. Iftekharuzzaman, Executive Director of Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB), told The Daily Messenger, “The extension of various projects in our country is a matter of hesitation. Most of the projects can be completed on time if the government sincerely wants. But due to the involvement of party people and giving them special benefits, the government does not take strict measures.”