The four-lane road that cost Tk276cr is now being ripped up to expand it to eight lanes
It is one of the main arteries connecting Dhaka to the northeastern region. Moreover, it links the 7,000-acre Purbachal sprawl, the future home to millions of people, to Dhaka city. And yet, planners could not foresee the future of the 300-foot road that connects Kuril with the Kanchan bridge through Purbachal.
The planners flip-flopped on the size of the road. First, they planned an eight-lane road, then they brought it down to mere four lanes thinking that that should be enough to meet the demand for another 10 years.
Then, when the road was almost complete with one more month's work remaining, they felt four lanes were not enough. They decided to go for eight lanes.
The result – a complete waste of money spent on the four lanes. The whole 300-foot road is now a dug up mess with earth piled up on both sides. Meanwhile, the road that already was seeing huge traffic pressure is in a perennial gridlock.
The Kuril-Kanchan bridge road link project in the city is a glaring example of how rash planning and a lack of farsightedness lead to project overlapping and wastage of public money.
The Rajdhani Unnayan Kartripakkha (Rajuk) completed work on the 12km four-lane expressway with service roads on both sides in December 2018.
Then the necessity of an even wider road was felt only a month before the project ended after spending more than Tk276 crore over five years.
The Purbachal link road, commonly known as the 300 feet road, is now forgotten as a new massive project – an eight-lane expressway with six-lane service roads on both sides– is underway in the same place.
Officials said the eight-lane expressway was mentioned in the Development Project Proposal (DPP) for the Purbachal new town approved in 2005. But Rajuk, starting the project work in 2013, proceeded with the four-lane roadwork, which is now being dug up to widen the road further as a component of the ongoing canal development project.
Why did Rajuk deviate from the original DPP?
Rajuk Chief Engineer Ujjwal Mallick said, "When work on the Purbachal link road started, such a wide road was not a necessity. A four-lane expressway was then deemed enough to meet the need for 10 years."
The question of money was also involved, he added. "The link road was built with Rajuk's own fund. It cost us about Tk300 crore," said the chief engineer, arguing that the city development authorities did not have enough money in hand back then to go for the full-scale project.
Digging the 100-foot canal on both sides of the link road – from Kuril to the River Balu – was mentioned in the Detailed Area Plan (DAP), and the project was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) in 2015 with a cost of Tk5,287 crore.
The project was amended in November 2018, incorporating work on doubling the width of the expressway, which would complete just in the following month.
The four-lane expressway will now expand to eight lanes from Kuril to the River Balu and six lanes from Balu to Kanchan Bridge on the River Shitalakhya, and six-lane service roads both ways. Other components added to it include digging of three nearby canals and building bridges.
With all these components, the cost of the development of 100ft canal on both sides of the Purbachal link road almost doubled to Tk10,330 crore from the original project cost.
A transport infrastructure expert calls it "irreversible damage" to the country caused by the government's agencies' flawed planning.
"We lack planned development. Agencies develop projects on their own without considering the overall perspective," said Md Shamsul Hoque, professor of civil engineering at Buet.
"We are now having a partial development based on projects. If it was a system-driven development, the cost could be lower and recurrent expenditure would not be required," he said, regretting that a bad culture of making blunders without fear of reprisals or punishment has now been in practice.
The result is unabated wastage of public money and in the absence of accountability, wrongdoers are rewarded with new projects instead of being punished, the Buet professor pointed out.
Metrorail-1 to proceed in parallel
A part of the metrorail-1 (MRT-1) is designed to stretch through the Purbachal link road-Natun Bazar.
Buet Professor Dr Moazzem Hossain, who was a consultant for the canal development project, said they had preferred underground metrorail, which would have been feasible. "In any case, the decision may be different. But there will now be some hazards if it goes overhead."
"We left the canal development project after its cost escalation following a revision in November 2018," he added.
Rajuk's canal development project director Ehsan Jamil, however, does not see any problem. "We have kept a four-metre space available in the middle of the road for metrorail work," he told The Business Standard.
Dhaka Mass Transit Company Ltd Managing Director MAN Siddique also believes the metrorail construction will not affect the roadwork.
"Metrorail pillars will be constructed before the road project work is completed. We will coordinate with each other," he added.