Bangladesh to get connected through Asian Economic Corridor

DHAKA: Eight highways of a total length of 600 kilometers of Bangladesh are going to be connected afresh in the proposed Bangladesh China India Myanmar (BCIM) Economic Corridor under South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (SASEC) for expanding trade and commerce.

Roads and Highways (R&H) department sources have stated that the design is almost in the final stage following a complete study.

However, not a single kilometer of existing roads in the country has international standard. Still initiatives are underway to bring 600 kilometers roads under Asian Highway, BBIN and SASEC project.

Speaking on the matter, Secretary of R&H division MN Siddique said that 600-kms highway in eight corridors will be upgraded to Asian highway standard.

He further said all roads will be converted into four lanes. Primarily we carried out a feasibility study and hopefully we will be able to construct roads as per international standard, gradually.

The Secretary said there were several standards of Asian highway. “We will upgrade these roads to class one. First, we will construct Paglapir-Dhalia-Barokhata highway to enter India. This will help upgrading the communications of Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan. Later, we will construct 105-km long Rangpur-Syedpur-Banglabandha highway to enter India helping trade boost with Nepal and Bhutan.”

Regarding financing the Secretary said, “We will proceed in phases. Besides, ADB, World Bank, JICA and France wanted to finance to implement the project. We have taken up the initiative after five years. Gradually the Asian highway project will be implemented.”

He, however, declined to outline the completion date of the mega-project.

China, Japan, Iran, South Korea, Turkey and Malaysia are far advanced in constructing Asian highway. India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Singapore and Thailand are also working speedily.

The strategy of connecting 600-km highway in eight corridors:

First corridor: This 135-km long corridor will enter India through Bhanga-Bhatiapara-Kalna of Faridpur district and Lohagara-Narail-Benapole of Jessore. This route will play an important role in expanding trade with India, Nepal and Bhutan.

Second corridor: The 105-km long second route will enter India through Rangpur via Syedpur-Banglabandha. This route will also play an important role for expansion of international and regional trade with Nepal and Bhutan.

Third corridor: The third corridor, only 10-km long, will connect Khepupara-Paira port of Patuakhali by bonding internal highways.

Fourth corridor: This route is of 46-km long which will enter India through Charkhai-Shewla-Sutrakandi of Sylhet helping boost of regional trade.

Fifth corridor: The 14-km long fifth corridor will work as an access road to Chittagong. This road will help expanding maritime trade among Asian countries.

Sixth Corridor: This 58-km long route will connect Savar-Nabinagar-Paturia. This will be an auxiliary route for the internal highways for boosting trade.

Seventh corridor: The 172-km long corridor will connect Jheniedah via Natore-Bonpara-Ishwardi-Paksey-Kushtia. This will also be an internal auxiliary road.

Eighth corridor: This route is 60-km long and will enter India via Paglapir-Dhalia-Barokhata of Rangpur helping trade expansion with Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan.

R&H division further informed that a feasibility study on 1,752-km road was done under Technical Assistance for Subregional Road Transport Project Preparatory Facility, Asian highway SASEC and BCIM.

As per proposal by ADB, the feasibility study project costs Tk 50.8-crore, of which, Bangladesh will provide Tk 35-crore as credit assistance. The project implementation period will be 2015 to 2018. The estimated expenditure for feasibility study and detailed design and consultancy will be Tk 45.76-crore.

The budget of salary for the officials and employees will be Tk 2.14-crore. Moreover, Tk 1.87-crore will be spent for office accommodation, transport and internet bill.

This project will sort out ways to ensure the international standard of Asian highway.

The project study reveals that non-mechanized or slow moving transports will not be allowed on the highways as separate service road arrangements will be available for those. Generally the highways are guarded by protective barriers where the vehicles run at a speed of 120-km per hour. There will be no habitation within 50 meters area of each side of the road while road crossing is completely prohibited.

The R&H sources said they would try to attain the standard and quality of the highways of other Asian countries. However, the implementation of the project will depend on the financial assistance of development partners.

Primarily the conversion work of second and eighth corridors is at the preparatory stage. Upon completed, this will help Bangladesh to set up road network with India, Nepal and Bhutan.