THE skyrocketing cost of road and flyover construction in Bangladesh is disconcerting. The projected cost for some of the forthcoming road construction projects are unreasonably high in comparison with that in Europe and other Asian countries. When investigating the escalated cost of road construction, a New Age report on Sunday stated Tk 117.96 crore in cost for a kilometre of the construction of proposed four-lane 53km Dhaka-Mawa Highway which is much higher than the expenditure of some of the recently completed projects in Bangladesh. According to the explanation of the Road Transport and Highways Division, high land acquisition cost and delay in implementation are the two significant reasons behind this abrupt escalation. The 11km Mayor Hanif flyover in the capital took longer than expected to reach the implementation stage and, therefore, multiplied the initial estimated cost set at Tk 670 crore in 2005 to Tk 2053 crore. The division also stated that the cost is particularly high in Bangladesh because construction involved bridges, flyovers, underpasses, crossings and U-loops. The answer seems unfounded as in a similar geopolitical scenario, neighbouring India awarded contracts for the construction of 15,000km highways at the rate of Rs 15 crore a kilometre. Any associated cost such as labour or construction materials have not seen an increase at the rate the cost of highway and flyover construction is increased. In what follows, such unexplainable spending of public money raises serious concern about the real intent of the authorities concerned. It appears to be a ploy for corruption.
The unsubstantiated projected cost of flyover and highway construction also casts a shadow on the planning process. What cost-effectiveness analysis and planning process was followed to make this estimation is not something shared with experts concerned and civil society organisations. Why the construction of four-lane Mayor Hanif flyover took nearly a decade to implement is a vexing question that demands an answer. Such unaccountability creates further controversy around the activities of the division that has already been known for its corruption. The heightened controversy around the financing of the Padma Bridge is one of many such examples. The media have widely reported the way road construction is delayed as tactical and systematic. Such a delay opens up the possibility of corruption not just in monetary terms but also in ethical terms as injudicious spending of public money is unacceptable.
Responding to the citizens’ concerns about this unsubstantiated estimated cost of the construction of three proposed highways — Dhaka-Mawa Highway, Elanga-Rangpur Highway and Dhaka-Sylhet Highway — the government should immediately clear the air of suspicion. In addition, the division should develop an effective monitoring cell and other mechanisms to put an end to this systematic delay in the implementation of any road construction project. Citizens should also devise their own strategy to fight such bureaucratic con — tactical delay and injudicious spending — and demand a full disclosure of the process and supporting documents through which the government has approved this unreasonably escalated cost.
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