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Bangladesh Govt Draws Huge Plan to Link Country with Asian Highway
Source: bangladesh-web
Source Date: Saturday, April 17, 2010
Focus: Institution and HR Management
Country: Bangladesh
Created: Apr 19, 2010

The government has planned to expand the country's key highways and bridges at a cost of 158.91 billion taka to link Bangladesh with the Asian highway-a network of 141,000 kilometres of roads encompassing 32 nations including Europe.(The FE BD)

The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) has drawn up 23 projects to execute the giant construction work in the sixth five year development plan that begins in July next year, officials said Thursday.

The expanded road network will link the country with the Asian Highway through Sylhet, Jessore and Panchagarh border, boosting trade and economic growth by ushering in a new era of connectivity with the continent's top powerhouses.

"We have already started implementing some of the projects to connect the country with the Asian Highway (AH)," said M Mahbub Ul Alam, a RHD superintend engineer who looks after the Bangladeshi part of the AH.

The rest of the projects would be financed partly by the government and the development partners, Mr. Mahbub said.

He added the Prime Minister in her next tour to Malaysia and South Korea would seek support for some projects. The anti-poverty lenders, the Asian Development Bank and the World Bank, are also keen to bank-roll the expansion work.

"We need donors assistance to complete the projects in time. Some projects would also be implemented through public-private-partnership," he said.

Bangladesh joined the Asian Highway in July last year, some five years after the Bangkok-based UN-ESCAP kick-started the world's largest transport network with blessing from top Asian giants including China and India.

Officials said under the projects, major national highways and bridges would be expanded into four lanes in line with the standards set by AH's executing agency United Nations Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP).

The ESCAP has proposed Bangladesh join the Asian Highway through two routes. First one starts at Benapole in Jessore and ends at Tamabil. The second AH-2 route starts at Banglabandha and ends at Tamabil.

Officials said the Awami League government has in principle okayed the routes which begins and ends in India. The previous BNP-led government delayed signing the deal, as it wanted the country to link with the Asian Highway through Myanmar.

A sub-regional route called AH-41 has also been proposed connecting the Mongla and Chittagong seaports with Myanmar through Teknaf border. The total route length is 1,806 kilometre of which 1,199 km roads have two lanes and 584 km roads have only one.

RHD officials said the ADB has started surveying the roads on the two routes to find out their conditions. It is understood, the development lender may recommend changes to upgrade the roads in line with AH standards.

"We expect funds from the development partners after the study," said another official.

The ESCAP said its secretariat is now working with member countries to identify financial sources for the construction of the gigantic road network and improve its transport capacity and efficiency.

Though the United Nations' agency has already invested a total of US$26 billion in the improvement and upgradation of the network, there is still a shortfall of US$18 billion.

RHD officials said among the 23 projects, upgradation of Bohaddarhat-approach road of the third Karnaphuli bridge and the Jatrabari-Demra road into four lane have been undertaken with government funding.

They said the government has sought credit from China to construct two more bridges on the river Meghna on Dhaka-Chittagong Highway as the existing two-lane bridges are struggling to accommodate increasing number of traffic.

The ADB has said it would bankroll the Bogra-Natore road upgradation and Benapol-Jessore-Bhatiapara road improvement project.

The mammoth Asian Highway was cinceived in 1959 aimed at promoting trade and connectivity among the countries within the continent.

The Intergovernmental Agreement on the Asian Highway Network was adopted on 18 November 2003 by an inter-governmental meeting at Bangkok. It entered into force on 4 July 2005.
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