The government today approved two separate projects on the Western Economic Corridor and Regional Enhancement Programme (WeCARE) Phase 1 including the WeCARE Phase-1: Jhenidah-Jashore Highway (N-7) Development project with an estimated cost of Taka 4,187.70 crore in a bid to upgrade 48.50 KM highway to six lanes including service lanes on both sides.
The approval came from the 16th meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) in the current fiscal year (FY21) held today with ECNEC Chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.
The premier joined the meeting virtually from her official Ganobhaban residence while ministers, state ministers and secretaries concerned joined the meeting from the NEC Conference Room in the city’s Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area.
Briefing reporters virtually after the meeting, Planning Division Senior Secretary Md Ashadul Islam said that the meeting approved a total of seven projects involving an overall estimated cost of Taka 10,702.23 crore. “Of the total project cost, Taka 6,459.27 crore will come from the Government of Bangladesh while the rest Taka 4,242.96 crore as project assistance,” he added.
Of the approved seven projects, five are new while two others are revised projects.
Revealing the details of the project, Planning Commission member of the Physical Infrastructure Division Mamun Al Rashid said that the WeCARE Phase-1: Jhenidah-Jashore Highway (N-7) Development project aims to improve the communication network of Benapole, Asian highway including Bhomra Land Port and Mongla Sea Port, SAARC highway corridor, BIMSTEC road corridor and SASEC road corridor with the north-western region of the country.
The Roads and Highways Department under the Road Transport and Highways Division will implement the project by December 2023 as the Prime Minister has reduced the stipulated timeframe for completing the project by two years. Of the total project cost of Taka 4,187.70 crore, the World Bank will provide Taka 2,705.65 crore while the rest Taka 1,482.04 crore will come from the government fund.
The main project operations include some 151.004 hectares of land acquisition, 48.50km pavement construction, 63.42 lakh cubic meter earth work, construction of one flyover with 1,647.29 meter flyover and four bridges with a length of 198.12 meter, construction of 55 culverts, 12 pedestrian over bridges and one underpass alongside necessary consultancy services.
The ECNEC meeting also approved the WeCARE Phase-1: Rural Connectivity, Market and Logistic Infrastructure Improvement Project (RCMLIIP) with Taka 2,180.98 crore including Taka 1,537.30 crore loan assistance from the World Bank.
The Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) under the Local Government Division will implement the project by June 2025 at 18 upazilas under four districts namely Jashore, Magura, Chuadanga and Jhenidah.
The main project operations include 611km road development, installation of 120 waste management units, maintenance of 611km upazila, union and village Roads as the scheme aims to ensuring overall socio-economic development of these four districts through transportation of farm produces, its marketing, distribution and preservation through improvement of the rural communication system.
The day’s ECNEC meeting also approved the Identification System for Enhancing Access to Services (IDEA), Phase 2 project with Taka 1805.09 crore mainly to provide all citizens aged above 14 years with smart national identity (NID) cards.
Commenting on the project, Planning Commission member Abul Kalam Azad said the Election Commission Secretariat will implement the project by November 2025.
He said this project has been undertaken as the period for the ongoing IDEA project will expire in December.
Under this new project, Azad said all citizens above 14 years will get smart NID cards. Besides, the Election Commission will send its teams to 40 largest host countries of expatriate Bangladeshis to enroll them in the voter list and provide them with NID services.
The major operations of the project include production and personalization of smart cards.
He said the old equipment and technologies of the existing project will be used in the new project. “So, the project cost will decline significantly.”
The Planning Commission member said they have placed a recommendation in the meeting so that the NID services could be brought under the revenue budget instead of running it under project.
He said the government is considering whether all data registration activities including NID registration, birth and death registration and the registration activities carried out by the Directorate General of Family Planning could be brought under a single entity.
Meanwhile, the Planning Division senior secretary said the Prime Minister in the meeting stressed the need for undertaking certain measures for properly facing the 2nd wave of the Coronavirus (COVID-19).
He said the premier stressed properly imparting training to that personnel who will vaccinate people once those are imported and made available, properly maintaining cold-chain of vaccines when imported and made available as well as effectively maintaining the waste management of the vaccines.
Turning to the issue of delay in project implementation, Ashadul said the Prime Minister asked the concerned ministries and divisions to prepare lists about the construction firms and contractors featuring their work history, their volume of works and which firms finish their works in stipulated timeframe or which do not.
The senior secretary said the Prime Minister gave the directive to facilitate emergence of new construction firms and contractors and thus encouraging a healthy competition.
Ashadul said the premier renewed her call to make the roads and highways more sustainable, keeping provision of draining out rainwater from the roads and highways during construction as well as keeping sufficient places along the highways where drivers, helpers and passengers of public and private transports could take rest while traveling.
Referring to the approval of Expansion of cultivation of high-quality grass and transfer of suitable technology for development of livestock nutrition with Taka 116.73 crore, the Planning Division senior secretary said, the Prime Minister termed this project a “good project” as cultivation of high-quality grass will be suitable for livestock development.
Turning to the approval of “Khurushkul Special Ashrayan” project with Taka 1.333.61 crore, the Prime Minister asked the authorities concerned to take measures so that no outsider except the original project beneficiaries get accommodation in the project site.
The two other projects approved in the meeting are Development of necessary infrastructures and facilities for conducting the operations of Payra Port, 2nd revised with an additional cost of Taka 1,023.96 crore and Establishment of Sheikh Hasina Tatpalli, phase-1, 1st revised with an additional cost of Taka 54.15 crore.