Bangladesh News Bangladesh Economy & Development Thread

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Pragati Industries Limited (PIL), a state-run automobile assembler of Bangladesh, is going to start assembling sedans of foreign make by December this year, according to company officials.

"Whether it is a Japanese or Korean brand, we will start assembling sedans by December," said Md Abul Kalam Azad, managing director of PIL, citing how they are already engaged in discussions to this end.

Earlier in May, the PIL had reached a consensus with Mitsubishi Motors Corporation (MMC) to establish a complete knock-down setup for assembling cars designed by the Japanese automaker.

"But the MCC is yet to inform us exactly how they would provide technical cooperation. Still, we are hopeful about getting a final decision soon," he told The Daily Star yesterday.

Azad also said they would expand the necessary facilities for assembling sedans with technical help from the MMC.

"To implement this with the approval of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, we sent our detailed plan to the MMC in the first week of July," he added. "We shared the plan with the MMC so that they can take necessary measures for technical cooperation."

As per the plan, the PIL aims to assemble Mitsubishi sedans with an engine capacity of 1.2 to 1.6 litres for regular customers in the country.

And barring any unforeseen circumstance, the company will be able to launch marketing campaigns for the new cars at the beginning of 2024.

Azad said the price of locally assembled models will be at least Tk 5 lakh less compared to imported ones as there is no supplementary duty.

As such, he believes customers will get brand new "Made in Bangladesh" sedans at reasonable prices in the near future.

"We will gradually use local components for up to 30 percent of a locally-assembled unit to ensure that it can be given the 'Made in Bangladesh' tag," Azad added.

Azad also said the PIL has skilled technicians with considerable experience in assembling Mitsubishi cars.

Besides, assembling such sedans is easy as the chassis will be imported with the engine from Japan.

PIL currently assembles sport utility vehicles, such as the Pajero Sport, active sports crossovers and double-cabin pickups of the Japanese brand as well as buses designed by India's Tata.

In March, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina urged for using locally-manufactured cars of PIL instead of imported vehicles for development projects considering the current economic situation.

Regarding the budget, Azad said PIL will itself mobilise the necessary funds to set up the sedan assembling plant.

According to him, they will primarily assemble a minimum of 200 sedans each year on a pilot project basis.

"The number of assembled cars will then be gradually increased," he said.

Since 1966, Mitsubishi has been outsourcing its production activities in Bangladesh to PIL, which is a concern of the Bangladesh Steel and Engineering Corporation.

Pragati sold only 177 vehicles in the last fiscal year whereas 711 units were sold the year prior.

Azad said there is currently limited demand for new cars in Bangladesh, where most people buy second hand. However, he said Mitsubishi holds a significant share of brand-new car sales in the country.

At present, around 16,000 cars hit the streets every year, according to data of the Bangladesh Road Transport Authority.

During a visit to Bangladesh in May 2019, Ryujiro Kobashi, vice president of MMC disclosed they would invest in Bangladesh to produce their branded vehicles.

Kobashi sought policy support from the government in this regard.


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Bangladesh has formulated its maiden tariff policy to improve the competitiveness of local companies in the international market as they brace for an increased competition after the country becomes a developing nation in 2026.

The commerce ministry published a gazette on the National Tariff Policy on August 10.

It aims to rationalise the import tariff structure as the country will not enjoy the preferential trade facility after it leaves the group of least-developed countries (LDCs).

Thanks to a high protection locally for a long time, domestic industries are reluctant to compete in the international markets and to be more competitive globally. Rather, they prefer to sell their goods in the domestic markets.

The rationalisation of tariffs will accelerate economic activities and generate more jobs while the government will gradually cut its dependency on import duties.

For instance, Bangladesh imported raw materials and intermediate goods worth $20 billion in FY22 from China to feed its local and export-oriented industries, yielding thousands of crores of taka in duty.

However, after the rationalisation of the tariffs, the government might not be able to collect such a huge amount of revenue in the form of import duties alone on Chinese raw materials and intermediate goods.

It is, however, expected that more goods will be imported at lower prices, allowing local entrepreneurs to add more value to their export-oriented items and be more competitive in the international market and paving the way for more economic activities and more revenues.

Besides, if the tariffs are fixed in line with global rates, more foreign direct investments might flow into Bangladesh since the cost of production in the country would decline.

Over the past few decades, the government has raised the supplementary and protective duties to offset the fall in revenue collection and protect domestic industries from international competitors, the gazette notification said.

As a result, the efforts to make local firms competitive have been affected.

Mostafa Abid Khan, a former member of the Bangladesh Trade and Tariff Commission (BTTC), says one of the major objectives of the tariff policy is to resolve many complexities in import tariffs since some are enjoying more benefits while some are not.

"Moreover, a high tariff is no more viable to attract foreign investments and make domestic industries globally competitive."

He warns that if taking preparation does not begin now, it would be difficult to be ready for the post-LDC era.

Import tariffs, comprising customs and regulatory duties, account for 10 percent of the total tax revenue of the government.

Khan said it is possible to generate the same amount of revenue from the domestic market if economic activities accelerate and more jobs are created.

A national committee will periodically review industries and advise the government to protect them, if required.

The committee will also recommend measures in favour of infant industries so that they can thrive and contribute more to the economy, Khan added.

Senior Commerce Secretary Tapan Kanti Ghosh said Bangladesh has always imposed tariffs unilaterally, but retaining the same practice would be difficult following the LDC graduation.

Bangladesh is negotiating with major trading partners to sign bilateral trade agreements to retain the preferential trade facility after graduation. But in the high tariff regime, the countries may not agree to ink such deals.

"Tariff rationalisation will indicate that the country is maintaining the standard set by the World Trade Organisation," Ghosh said.

Tariff rationalisation, however, does not mean that all tariffs will be made zero.

In some cases, tariff rates will be reduced while in other areas, the government will protect local industries by maintaining a sensitive list.

This means many domestic industries under the sensitive list or negative list will enjoy protection, the senior secretary said, adding that infant industries will get protection for certain years.

Ahsan H Mansur, executive director of the Policy Research Institute of Bangladesh, said tariff rationalisation has long been overdue.

The protective rate of Bangladesh is more than 30 percent whereas it is less than 9 percent in India and 4.7 percent in the Association of South East Asian Nations.

So, other countries will not feel encouraged to sign free trade deals with Bangladesh, said Mansur.

If Bangladesh wants to sign Comprehensive Economic Partnership Agreement, it will have to reduce the tariff rate.

"If Bangladesh wants to enjoy market access in other countries, we will have to offer the same level of market access to others after the LDC graduation," added Mansur.

 

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Bangladesh has awarded Korean companies the rights to negotiate a US$1 billion water supply project for an industrial park in Bangladesh, reports businesskorea.co.kr.

The Korean Ministry of Land, Infrastructure, and Transport and Korea Overseas Infrastructure & Urban Development Corporation (KIND) said on Aug. 21 that Bangladesh granted the preferential negotiation rights to the water supply project to Korean companies in the fifth round of a Korea-Bangladesh public-private partnership (PPP) consultation meeting in Dhaka, the capital of Bangladesh, on Aug. 20 (local time).

The project aims to supply 250,000 tons of industrial water per day to an industrial park in the BSMSN Economic Zone in Chattogram City, Bangladesh. The project budget is US$1 billion. KIND and Taeyoung E&C will participate by forming a consortium.

Based on the preferential negotiation rights, the Korean companies will negotiate the terms of the project exclusively with the Bangladeshi government without participating in a public bidding process. They will then submit proposals and negotiate to finally sign a contract on the project.

In 2019, KIND signed a memorandum of understanding with the Public Private Partnership Authority, an investment development project agency under the Prime Minister’s Office of Bangladesh. They held four rounds of the consultation meeting to discuss participation in infrastructure projects in Bangladesh.

 

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The development work to modernise the Chatto-gram Shah Amanat Inter-national Airport having several fresh facilities will be completed within December.

Officials of Chattogram Shah Amanat International Airport said the work of extension of runways, construction of cargo houses, parallel taxi ways and high-speed taxi ways and expansion of tarmac, etc. is going on in full swing to modernise the airport.

It was known that after the extension of the runways, the full-loaded Boeing 777 flights will be able to fly from the airport. Moreover, the PCN (power of runway) will be 91 from the prevailing PCN 66. After the construction of the new tarmac, 12 planes will be able to stay at the international airport while presently 10 flights can stay there.

Under the project to modernise the airport, the body scanners have already been set up at the airport while the boarding bridge, connecting corridors, departure lounge, and others will be set up within the last month of the year.

Director of the Chattogram Shah Amanat International Airport Group Captain Taslim Ahmed said, "New opportunity has been created to park more flights at the Chattogram Shah Amanat International Airport now. I hope the work to modernise the airport will be completed in December."

Meanwhile, the newly-elected President of FBCCI Mahbubul Alam sent letters to the ministry concerned and requested them to modernise the airport during his tenure as Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry (CCCI) president.

Mahbubul Alam said, "The people of Chattogram have been waiting to get the airport modernised. Locals were demanding to get more international flights from Chattogram."

A total of six international and two Bangladeshi airlines are operating their flights at Chattogram Shah Amanat International Airport now. A total of 12 international flights and 17 domestic flights land at the airport every day.

The airport is operated and maintained by the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh. It is the second-largest international airport in the country. The airport is capable of handling 1.5 million passengers and 6,000 MT of cargo annually.

 

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A joint venture led by Saudi-based ACWA Power Company is setting up Bangladesh's largest solar power plant in Rampal upazila of Bagerhat with an investment of $430 million.

The Bangladesh Power Development Board (BPDB) will provide the land adjacent to the Rampal coal-fired power plant for the solar plant that will generate 300MW of electricity, sources said.

Two private sector companies in Bangladesh – Comfit Composite Knit Ltd and Viyellatex Spinning Ltd – will also invest in the plant, which will run on the build-own-operate method.

ACWA Power, the world's largest private-sector power company, will hold a 51% share in the power plant.

Sources in the finance ministry have indicated that the tariff proposal for the establishment of this power plant might be approved during today's (30 August) meeting of the Cabinet Committee on Government Procurement. Finance Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal is expected to chair the meeting.

ABM Ziaul Haque, chief engineer (Private Generation) at BPDB, acknowledged to have received such a proposal recently.

"Now it is being examined by the BPDB chairman's wing," he told The Business Standard.

Power Division officials have stated that the BPDB has the land for the potential establishment of an additional coal-based power plant adjacent to the Rampal coal-based power plant. The 300MW solar power plant needs 900 acres of area and will be constructed on that plot of land.

Largest solar plant in Bangladesh

Kawsar Ali, chief operating officer at Comfit Composite Knit Ltd, said, "It will be the largest solar power plant in Bangladesh. We are investing in this plant in partnership with the BPDB and ACWA Power Company."

He said Comfit Composite Knit's textile factories are green and platinum-certified.

"We have already invested in the gas and furnace oil-based Shahjibazar Power Plant and Midland Power Plant, which together generate 350MW. The company is also increasing its investment in renewable energy," he told TBS.

According to officials, Saudi Arabia's ACWA Power is the world's largest electricity company and currently generates about 56,000MW of electricity.

ACWA Power signed a memorandum of understanding with the BPDB in November last year to establish a 1,000MW solar power plant in Bangladesh.

Also, the Saudi company wants to invest $2.5 billion in Bangladesh to build a gas-run plant capable of generating 3,600MW electricity. It signed a MoU with the BPDB for the development of a natural gas/R-LNG-based combined cycle power plant on 17 October 2019.

Officials at Comfit Composite Knit Ltd and Viyellatex Spinning Ltd said that ACWA Power will be the lead partner and investor in the 300MW solar power plant in Rampal.

The officials, however, declined to give any information about the ownership shares of the BPDB and two domestic private companies.

Will take 2.5 years to implement

According to an official involved with the process, it will take about two and a half years from now to implement the project and go into production. After the completion of the first phase of the power plant, there are plans to set up another 400MW solar power plant in the second phase at the same location.

To prevent the negative effects of climate change, the government has announced that it will not build new coal-based power plants. Recently, the government has given importance to renewable energy and solar power in the context of an increase in the price of energy in the international market.

Last month, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the 200MW Teesta Solar Plant, which is the largest solar power plant in Bangladesh so far.

Beximco Power Limited, an associate company of Beximco Group, has built this plant in Sundarganj Upazila of Gaibandha.

Besides, a solar park has been built on 350 acres of land in Rampal by Energy Renewables, an associate company of Orion Group. From this park, 134.3 MW of peak (solar energy measuring unit) electricity is being supplied to the national grid.

Govt targets 10% power from solar

The government is chasing a target of 10% electricity generation from renewable sources, including solar, hydro, and wind, by 2025.

According to the Bangladesh Power Development Board, the country currently has 2% of its electricity generation capacity from renewable sources. Achieving the Sustainable Development Goals, or SDGs, requires at least 12% of electricity from these sources.

According to data from the BPDB, the production cost per unit of electricity in the country's diesel-powered plants is Tk22.

The cost of generating electricity from LNG is Tk10 per unit; from local coal in Barapukuria, it is Tk4 per unit; from imported coal, it is Tk6 per unit; and from furnace oil, it is Tk12 per unit. However, these sources of electricity are not environmentally friendly.

The production cost per unit of solar power in Bangladesh is Tk8-10. The cost at the country's only hydropower plant in Kaptai ranges from Tk0.30 to Tk1, depending on the season.


Highlights:
  • The new container terminal will be constructed on 53 acres of land at Laldia, owned by the Chattogram port
  • Around 30-32 lakh containers are transported through Chattogram port annually and one-third of these containers are transported by Maersk
  • AP Moller-Maersk operates container terminals in 65 countries around the world

Danish shipping and logistics giant Maersk Group has proposed building a container terminal at Laldia in Chattogram with an investment of around $400 million as part of its initiative to develop green ports worldwide.

Maersk Group Chief Executive Officer Robert Maersk Uggla and Danish Charges D'Affaires in Bangladesh Andres B Karlsen met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office on Monday.

On hearing of the proposal, the premier told them, "Bangladesh's relevant authorities will consider the proposal on constructing and operating a new container terminal."

The Maersk representatives and the Danish charges d'affaires also held meetings with State Minister of Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury and other stakeholder organisations related to the port regarding the investment proposal.

According to the proposal, Maersk will invest the entire amount in building the terminal on 53 acres of land at Laldia – a char created from river sediment. More than 95% of the workforce in terminal management will be Bangladeshis.

The Ministry of Shipping, the Chattogram Port Authority and other stakeholders welcomed the investment proposal, saying the more foreign giant companies join Chattogram port, the better the service quality of the port will be. New foreign investment is very positive for the country's economy, especially at this time of dollar crisis, they said.

Shipping Secretary Mustafa Kamal told The Business Standard that any foreign investment is beneficial for the country. Maersk Line is welcome to invest here.

Traders concerned with the port said with the new terminal in operation, goods transportation will expand and the export of goods, including ready-made garments, will be boosted. It will also accelerate trade by reducing vessels' berthing and lead times, and freight costs.

Newly elected President of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry Omar Hajjaj said companies like Maersk bringing new investments in port facilities is a positive sign for the country's economy.

"This will undoubtedly pave the way for more new investment in Chattogram port. We applaud the new investment proposal of Maersk Line on behalf of the businessmen of Chattogram," he said.

Mohammed Shamsul Azam, director of BKMEA, said the involvement of a global giant in the management of the port means that the operational activities will become dynamic.

"At present, we are faced with various problems in the delivery of import goods and shipping of export goods. If there is a new terminal, it will be beneficial for the country's import and export trade," Shamsul Azam said.

The char area of Laldia on the banks of the River Karnaphuli in Patenga, owned by Chattogram port, was illegally occupied. In March 2021, the port conducted eviction drives to free the area from occupation. The area has been vacant for more than two years.

Chittagong Port Authority Secretary Md Omar Faruk told TBS, "The port authority has 53 acres of land at Laldia. Maersk has offered to invest in a terminal there. We welcome foreign investment if it protects the country's interests."

Around 98% of goods transported by containers in Bangladesh go through Chattogram port. Stuffing (filling of containers) is done at 19 private inland container depots (ICDs) in Chattogram before the export products are loaded on ships.

Around 30% of the products shipped from these ICDs are transported by Maersk Line Shipping Company. Besides, Maersk Line ships are also involved in container transportation at the port.

Around 30-32 lakh import and export containers are transported through Chattogram port annually and about one-third of the containers are transported by Maersk, according to the Chittagong Port Authority.

On 22 August, Chittagong Port Authority Chairman Rear Admiral Mohammad Sohail said, "Investors from various countries, including from Asia and Europe, are interested in investing in Chattogram port. Foreign investment worth $5-7 billion will come to the port in the next three years."

According to the Maersk Line website, its subsidiary AP Moller-Maersk operates container terminals in 65 countries around the world.

According to Chattogram port users, Maersk is gradually increasing investment in the maritime sector of Bangladesh. It is building joint-venture warehouses in various ICDs. These warehouses are staffing the products transported by their own shipping companies.

Maersk Line has already constructed two warehouses at Chattogram's Ispahani Summit Alliance Terminal Limited (ISATL) and Vertex Off-Dock Logistic Services Ltd.

In April 2024, two more warehouses will be opened at Summit Alliance Port Limited (SAPL). Once these two warehouses become operational, Maersk Line will have five-lakh square feet of warehouse facilities at three ICDS in Chittagong.

 

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Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel beneath the Karnaphuli River is getting ready for traffic movement, as its 100 percent construction work has been completed so far.

"Now the finishing touch is going on and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to open the tunnel in October," said Project Director (PD) Md Harunur Rashid Chowdhury while talking to BSS.

"If everything goes well, the tunnel will be opened in October," he said.

On 14 August, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader confirmed that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel, constructed in Chattogram, on 28 October.

According to project details, the tunnel will directly connect the Chattogram Port with Anwara upazila, which will directly link Cox's Bazar with Chattogram.

Two tubes having 35-feet width and 16-feet height have been constructed within an 11-metre gap so that heavy vehicles can pass through the tunnel easily.

The length of the tunnel is 3.40 kilometres with an approach road of 5.35 kilometres alongside a 740-metre bridge linking the main city, port and western side of the river with its eastern side.

Bangabandhu's daughter, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the boring work of the first tunnel tube on 24 February 2019.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese President Xi Jinping jointly laid the foundation stone of the tunnel on 14 October 2016. China Communications Construction Company Ltd is working as the contractor of the project.

The tunnel will connect the proposed Asian Highway with Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar Highway along with reducing the distance by 40 km. Vehicles in this tunnel will run at a speed of 80 km per hour, according to the details of the project.

Bangabandhu Tunnel is being built at a cost of Tk10,374 crore. The tunnel project is being implemented with joint funding from the governments of Bangladesh and China. The Exim Bank of China is giving a loan of Tk5,913 crore with a two per cent interest rate while the Bangladesh government is funding the remaining portion.

 

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Highlights:
  • The new container terminal will be constructed on 53 acres of land at Laldia, owned by the Chattogram port
  • Around 30-32 lakh containers are transported through Chattogram port annually and one-third of these containers are transported by Maersk
  • AP Moller-Maersk operates container terminals in 65 countries around the world

Danish shipping and logistics giant Maersk Group has proposed building a container terminal at Laldia in Chattogram with an investment of around $400 million as part of its initiative to develop green ports worldwide.

Maersk Group Chief Executive Officer Robert Maersk Uggla and Danish Charges D'Affaires in Bangladesh Andres B Karlsen met Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at her office on Monday.

On hearing of the proposal, the premier told them, "Bangladesh's relevant authorities will consider the proposal on constructing and operating a new container terminal."

The Maersk representatives and the Danish charges d'affaires also held meetings with State Minister of Shipping Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury and other stakeholder organisations related to the port regarding the investment proposal.

According to the proposal, Maersk will invest the entire amount in building the terminal on 53 acres of land at Laldia – a char created from river sediment. More than 95% of the workforce in terminal management will be Bangladeshis.

The Ministry of Shipping, the Chattogram Port Authority and other stakeholders welcomed the investment proposal, saying the more foreign giant companies join Chattogram port, the better the service quality of the port will be. New foreign investment is very positive for the country's economy, especially at this time of dollar crisis, they said.

Shipping Secretary Mustafa Kamal told The Business Standard that any foreign investment is beneficial for the country. Maersk Line is welcome to invest here.

Traders concerned with the port said with the new terminal in operation, goods transportation will expand and the export of goods, including ready-made garments, will be boosted. It will also accelerate trade by reducing vessels' berthing and lead times, and freight costs.

Newly elected President of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry Omar Hajjaj said companies like Maersk bringing new investments in port facilities is a positive sign for the country's economy.

"This will undoubtedly pave the way for more new investment in Chattogram port. We applaud the new investment proposal of Maersk Line on behalf of the businessmen of Chattogram," he said.

Mohammed Shamsul Azam, director of BKMEA, said the involvement of a global giant in the management of the port means that the operational activities will become dynamic.

"At present, we are faced with various problems in the delivery of import goods and shipping of export goods. If there is a new terminal, it will be beneficial for the country's import and export trade," Shamsul Azam said.

The char area of Laldia on the banks of the River Karnaphuli in Patenga, owned by Chattogram port, was illegally occupied. In March 2021, the port conducted eviction drives to free the area from occupation. The area has been vacant for more than two years.

Chittagong Port Authority Secretary Md Omar Faruk told TBS, "The port authority has 53 acres of land at Laldia. Maersk has offered to invest in a terminal there. We welcome foreign investment if it protects the country's interests."

Around 98% of goods transported by containers in Bangladesh go through Chattogram port. Stuffing (filling of containers) is done at 19 private inland container depots (ICDs) in Chattogram before the export products are loaded on ships.

Around 30% of the products shipped from these ICDs are transported by Maersk Line Shipping Company. Besides, Maersk Line ships are also involved in container transportation at the port.

Around 30-32 lakh import and export containers are transported through Chattogram port annually and about one-third of the containers are transported by Maersk, according to the Chittagong Port Authority.

On 22 August, Chittagong Port Authority Chairman Rear Admiral Mohammad Sohail said, "Investors from various countries, including from Asia and Europe, are interested in investing in Chattogram port. Foreign investment worth $5-7 billion will come to the port in the next three years."

According to the Maersk Line website, its subsidiary AP Moller-Maersk operates container terminals in 65 countries around the world.

According to Chattogram port users, Maersk is gradually increasing investment in the maritime sector of Bangladesh. It is building joint-venture warehouses in various ICDs. These warehouses are staffing the products transported by their own shipping companies.

Maersk Line has already constructed two warehouses at Chattogram's Ispahani Summit Alliance Terminal Limited (ISATL) and Vertex Off-Dock Logistic Services Ltd.

In April 2024, two more warehouses will be opened at Summit Alliance Port Limited (SAPL). Once these two warehouses become operational, Maersk Line will have five-lakh square feet of warehouse facilities at three ICDS in Chittagong.

The Chittagong Port Authority (CPA) has said they gave their initial approval to Copenhagen-based port and cargo operator Maersk Group to set up a new container terminal near the country's main seaport, officials said.

"We (CPA) reviewed the Maersk proposal and gave our initial approval after the Shipping Ministry sought our opinion . . . we now await the shipping ministry decision," CPA chairman Rear Admiral Mohammad Sohail told BSS.

He said the Danish shipping and logistic giant came up with the proposal to build and operate a new container terminal at Laldia area near the port facility and if the scheme was approved this would be the Chittagong port's fourth container terminal.

CPA officials said under the port authority's oversight the three existing container terminals were now being handled by Saif Powertech, a Bangladeshi enterprise and if approved Maersk Group would be the first operator of a new CPA container terminal.

The CPA comments came a day after Maersk's Chief Executive Officer Robert Maersk Uggla called on Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina who said Bangladesh would consider the group's proposal while a national committee was formed to formulate logistic policy for the development of ports.

The CPA chief said a new terminal was needed for the port's efficient and enhanced operation by increasing its container handling capacity and acknowledged Maersk as one of the world's largest container handler.

"A new terminal is likely to help increase foreign orders for our readymade garments (RMG). The new terminal will also generate direct employment opportunities," Sohail added.

During the call on with the premier Uggla said Bangladesh had great potentials in the areas of container shipping and logistic supports and assured her that if allowed to build and operate the new terminal, his company would reflect her vision for a smart Bangladesh.

He also pointed out that the Danish government was very much supportive to the logistic policy while international brands H&M, M&S, Walmart and other big companies were interested to import more RMG products from Bangladesh.

Global ports and terminal operator APM Terminals, a subsidiary of Danish shipping company AP Moller Maersk, submitted the proposal to the shipping ministry in April this year for investing around $450 million to construct the new terminal at Laldia area of the port.

Bangladesh Shipping Agents Association already welcomed the proposal with its chairman Syed Mohammad Arif saying Maersk Line owned most containers that carry imported and exported goods through Chattogram port.

 

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the 22.5km stretch of Dhaka Elevated Expressway running from the airport to Farmgate today (2 September) at 3:30pm.

The prime minister travelled on the expressway, making the first toll payment at the airport toll plaza. Later, she attended a rally organised to mark the inauguration of the country's first expressway road at the old trade fair grounds in Agargaon, Dhaka.

The elevated expressway will be open to the public from 6am tomorrow (3 September). A commute on this portion of the expressway from the airport to Farmgate is going to be approximately 10 minutes, according to officials.

In a public notice on Friday (2 September), Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA), the implementing agency of the infrastructure, banned two and three-wheeler vehicles at the expressway.

Moreover, parking, getting out of the vehicle, and standing on the elevated expressway to take pictures have also been announced as prohibited.

The notification also revealed the maximum speed limit on the main elevated expressway is 60km per hour, and the speed limit on the entrance and exit ramps is 40km per hour.

Back in January 2011, the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) signed a deal with the Italian-Thai Development Public Company to build the country's first elevated expressway at a cost of Tk8,703 crore. It was revised in December 2013, and the cost stood at Tk8,940 crore.

Under the project, 31 ramps with a length of 27 kilometres will be constructed along with the 19.73-kilometre main road. In all, the length of the flyover will be 46.73 km.

The construction work was inaugurated twice – first in April 2011 for completion by mid-2014, and then in August 2015.

However, the formal construction commencement date is 1 January 2020, and a portion of the expressway – stretching from Dhaka airport to Moghbazar – was supposed to be opened by December 2020.

According to officials concerned, the project failed to meet the deadline time and again, mainly due to a crisis of funds of the private investor Italian-Thai, delays in handing over the project, and problems related to land acquisition.

However, the fund-related problem was resolved in 2020 after Italian-Thai handed over 49% of its share to two Chinese companies – China Shandong International Economic and Technical Corporation Group (34%) and Sinohydro Corporation Ltd (15%).

 

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The government has initiated the process of establishing the country's 10th export processing zone (EPZ) in Jashore with the aim of attracting $2 billion in foreign direct investment and achieving $2.4 billion in annual exports.

The projections were based on a survey conducted by the Infrastructure Investment Facilitation Company (IIFC), a government advisory body aimed at facilitating private sector investment in Bangladesh.

The Bangladesh Export Processing Zones Authority (Bepza) has already submitted the project proposal to the Planning Commission for final approval, according to sources in Bepza.

According to the project proposal, 438 industrial plots will be developed with an investment of Tk1,547 crore, and the development of the proposed export processing zone will be completed by June 2026.

Once commissioned, the export processing zone, to be set up on an area spanning more than 565 acres of land in Abhaynagar upazila, will create direct employment opportunities for 1.5 lakh local people and indirect employment for another three lakh people, according to the Bepza authorities.

The proposal to set up the country's ninth export processing zone in Patuakhali is awaiting the approval of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) after scrutiny by the Planning Commission.

Officials at the Planning Commission said the evaluation committee will meet on the project proposal on 7 September. After receiving primary approval from the meeting, the proposal will be sent to Ecnec for final approval.

In November 2019, the Bepza authorities decided in principle to set up an export processing zone in Jashore for the socio-economic development of the southwestern region of the country.

According to officials, establishing export processing zones in the south-west of the country and making use of the much-awaited Padma Bridge will contribute to the balanced development of the country.

Nazma Binte Alamgir, executive director (public relations) at Bepza, told The Business Standard that, according to the feasibility study report, readymade garments, textiles, agro- and food processing, leather products, chemicals, and pharmaceutical industries will be given priority in the proposed Jashore EPZ.

She said RMG, textiles, light engineering, pharmaceuticals, jute industrial, plastic industry, furniture, food processing, leather products, footwear, fish processing, electrical and electronics sectors, as well as IT industries, will have investment opportunities in the proposed Patuakhali EPZ.

"The establishment of the two proposed EPZs will contribute to the socio-economic development of the southwestern and southern regions of the country by attracting investments, boosting export earnings, and creating employment opportunities," said Nazma Binte Alamgir.

"Employment opportunities will be created for approximately 2.5 lakh people directly and an additional five lakh indirectly, attracting foreign direct investment of about $3,530 million and facilitating annual exports worth $4,436 million. In addition, the EPZs will make a significant contribution to the development of the two regions," she added.

According to officials concerned, the expenditure of the project will be taken from the government fund as a loan at 2% interest.

Established in 1980, Bepza, operating under the Prime Minister's Office, manages all the EPZs in the country.

Currently, there are eight EPZs in Bangladesh. The first one was set up in Chattogram in 1983, and the other seven were developed in phases over the last three decades.

Work on the Dhaka EPZ began in 1993, and the Dhaka EPZ expansion project was taken up in 1997 after receiving positive feedback from potential investors.

Later EPZs were set up in Mongla, Cumilla, Ishwardi, and Uttara (Nilphamari). Two more EPZs were set up in the Adamjee Jute Mills and Chittagong Steel Mills areas.

At present, investments in 456 industries in these EPZs amount to more than $6.04 billion. These zones produce export goods worth $9.587 billion annually.

More than five lakh skilled workers in the country's EPZs are manufacturing multi-variety products for world-famous brands.

These EPZs now have investments in 37 countries around the world.

Satellite towns have been automatically developed around various EPZs in the country. Apart from this, backward and old industrial factories and accessory industries, including transportation, food supply, markets, educational institutions and hospitals, have been developed around the EPZs.


The government has taken an initiative to set up a new modern fertiliser factory with a capacity of producing 2,800 tonnes of urea fertiliser in a day aiming to meet the ever increasing demand of urea fertiliser.

Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun said this while responding to a star-marked question brought by treasury bench lawmaker Morshed Alam of Noakhali-2 during the question-answer session held at the Jatiya Sangsad yesterday with Speaker Dr Shirin Sharmin Chaudhury in the chair.

"The construction would cost over Tk15,500.20 crore...over 80 percent works of the project have been completed", said the minister at the House.

Financial progress exceeded over 71 percent. The construction of the factory is scheduled to end in June 2024.

In addition to this, the government has already completed a pre-feasibility study to set up a urea fertiliser factory at the northern region of the country aiming to reduce import dependency of urea from abroad.

The next initiative of fertiliser factory construction will be taken after considering availability of the natural gas, the minister added.


Commissioning activities have begun at Ghorashal-Palash Urea Fertiliser Factory with Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun inaugurating the programme.

Industries Minister Nurul Majid Mahmud Humayun said that the entire work of Ghorashal-Palash Urea Fertiliser Factory is being completed ahead of the scheduled time stipulated by the foreign company which was given the contract for this project.

Already 95-98% of the activities have been completed. This environmentally friendly fertiliser factory will go into experimental production this month, he added.

He also said that the largest fertiliser factory is being established in Bangladesh through the implementation of the project called "Ghorashal-Palash Urea Fertiliser Project" which will play a big role in the progress of Bangladesh.

"The establishment of the new fertiliser plant will save huge amount of foreign exchange as well as reduce dependence on import of fertilisers, increase self-sufficiency in agriculture and create employment opportunities in the country," added the minister

Once the implementation of the project is completed, 2,800 tonne per day (annually 9,24,000 tonnes) of granular urea fertiliser will be produced.

The cost of the "Ghorashal-Palash Urea Fertiliser Project" has been estimated at Tk15,500 crore.

Work on various plants of the project is nearing completion. Already the project's ammonia plant, urea plant and utilities are visible, reads a press release.

The construction work of the Ghorashal-Palash Urea Fertiliser Factory started in Narsingdi district in October 2018, but after a long hiatus due to the pandemic, the foundation stone was officially laid by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on 21 April 2022.

During the inauguration of the commissioning work today also present were State Minister for Industries Kamal Ahmed Majumdar MP, local MP Dr Anwarul Ashraf Khan, Industry Secretary Zakia Sultana, Bangladesh Chemical Industries Corporation Chairman Md Saidur Rahman and Additional Secretary of the Ministry of Industries SM Alam.

Ghorashal-Palash Fertiliser Project Director Rajiur Rahman Mallick and representatives of contractor organisations and related officials were also present.


The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved proposals on Tuesday to purchase 340 new buses for the Bangladesh Road Transport Corporation (BRTC) and to set up a medical university in Chattogram as well as a medical college and hospital in Chandpur.

In the meeting, chaired by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina at the NEC conference room, 17 projects were approved, with 10 being new schemes and seven revised schemes. These projects involve a total of Tk12,951 crore, Planning Minister MA Mannan told reporters.

According to the project proposal, 104 city buses and 200 intercity buses, all of which will be CNG-run single-decker AC buses, will be purchased from South Korea by next year at a cost of over Tk1,133 crore. Tk828.63 crore will come from the East Asian country as a soft loan.

Under a separate project, Chattogram Medial University will be set up in Sitakunda upazila at a cost of Tk1858.79 crore. Ten residential buildings and 14 non-residential buildings will be constructed there.

The project, with a deadline set for June 2025, aims to ensure healthcare access for approximately 3.50 crore people in Chattogram and its surrounding areas.

Another medical college, hospital, and nursing college will be constructed on the banks of the Dakatia River to ensure modern and specialised health care for the 26 lakh people of Chandpur and adjoining areas.

According to the project proposal, it aims to produce 50 qualified doctors and 100 nurses every year. The implementation of the project, estimated at Tk1,370.74 crore, is targeted to be completed by June 2026.

At the Ecnec meeting, the prime minister asked the authorities concerned to be careful to ensure that there were no mistakes in the infrastructure designs.

"Designs should be prepared properly so that no infrastructure would be required to be demolished due to design flaws. Flawed designs waste both money and time," the planning minister quoted her as saying at the meeting.

The premier issued the order while approving the revised project for the construction of a bridge over the Nabaganga River at Kalia upazila in Narail.

MA Mannan said a part of the bridge had to be knocked down as it was not possible to pass boats under the structure. It is a waste of money and time. The prime minister expressed her displeasure.

Its construction cost was initially estimated at Tk75 crore, but a further Tk60.78 crore has been sanctioned for this project.

The ECNEC meeting approved the project of land acquisition and construction of a rail link for the construction of an inland container depot (ICD) at Dhirashram in Gazipur. The total cost of this project by Bangladesh Railway will be Tk3,402.89 crore.

The Planning Minister said that many times, 60% to 70% of the total project cost goes to land acquisition. Knowing that the land will be acquired by the government many times, many people construct new buildings in the hope of getting higher compensation.

As soon as a decision is taken to implement a government project at a place, the PM orders the authorities to take pictures of that place. According to the prime minister, the landowners concerned will not get the opportunity to claim additional compensation through this.


Perennial gridlocks on the Dhaka-Rangpur highway are expected to subside once the 190-kilometre section of the highway is upgraded into four lanes along with a new cloverleaf interchange built in Hatikumrul, similar to the one constructed on Mawa-Bhanga expressway in Bhanga upazila.

Once completed, this will open new horizons in the connectivity of 22 districts of North Bengal, benefiting thousands of commuters and motorists. Along with that, a new investment environment will be created in this region, said stakeholders.

Hatikumrul, a crucial intersection for North Bengal-bound vehicles, has become a bottleneck on the highway. Enduring hour-long gridlocks at this point is unavoidable due to heavy traffic, according to vehicle drivers and passengers.

Besides, the poor road connectivity is also hampering investment in North Bengal and Bangladesh's trade with India and Nepal through the Burimari and Banglabandha ports, said traders.

To resolve these issues, the Dhaka-Rangpur highway, as well as the Hatikumrul intersection, is being developed under the SASEC Road Connectivity Project 2, funded by the Asian Development Bank.

Md Waliur Rahman, director of the SASEC Road Connectivity Project 2, said the project will make communication and life easier for the people of the north. This is a unique milestone in the road transport sector.

The Road Transport and Highways Division is implementing the project at a cost of Tk16,662 crore. The construction of the intersection, which will cost Tk743.28 crore, is one of 13 packages of the project.

The intersection package will include the construction of a modified cloverleaf intersection, an operations and maintenance building and a highway service area. The service area will serve as a temporary resting facility for long-haul vehicle drivers.

China Railway Construction Bridge Engineering Bureau Group Company Limited is in charge of building the intersection under an agreement signed in 2021. The contractor is also responsible for six years of maintenance of the infrastructure.

Already 100 acres of land have been acquired for the construction of the intersection, said project officials.

The construction work has been facing some challenges as prices of construction materials (rod, cement) soared due to the Russia-Ukraine war. The work, however, is continuing, said officials of the Road Transport and Highways Division.

Around 68% of work on the Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur highway is completed but the work on the Hatikumrul intersection, considered a gateway to northern districts, is moving at a slower pace, with only 8% completed so far, said project officials.

Mahbubur Rahman, manager of the Hatikumrul intersection project, said the work was scheduled to be completed by December 2023 but due to a delay in land acquisition, the work will end in December 2025.

A source from the Road Transport and Highways Division told The Business Standard that 16 districts of the Rajshahi and Rangpur Divisions and six other districts of the Khulna Division in the country use the Hatikumrul junction for the transportation of people and goods.

At least 28,000 vehicles pass through the Bangabandhu Bridge over the River Jamuna on average every day. Hatikumrul intersection is about 20 km to the west of the bridge.

Rakibul Islam, a private employee of Bogura, told TBS, "The Hatikumrul intersection is a congestion-making factory. Gridlocks here are unbearable, especially during Eid. The new revamped intersection will be a blessing for northern people."

Sohan Sheikh, who has been driving buses on the Dhaka-Bogra route for the past 15 years, said, "There are several restaurants at the Hatikumrul roundabout that are responsible for worsening the congestion. If the intersection is constructed here, the road will be clear. Then there will be no traffic congestion. This is very important."

Matin Sarkar, General Secretary of Bogura District Truck, Lorry and Covered Van Owners' Association, said hundreds of drivers will get a chance to rest at the new intersection. "If there is a chance for drivers to rest on such a long journey, accidents will be reduced. This is a wonderful initiative of the government," he said.

Mahfuzul Islam Raj, vice president of the Bogura Chamber of Commerce and Industry, believes that the Dhaka-Rangpur highway four-lane development project will bring great changes in the socio-economic development of the region.

This business leader said, "Because the airport in Bogura is not fully operational, the businessmen of Dhaka do not dare to invest in the northern region. But I believe that such a revolutionary development of the highway can overcome that obstacle. Businessmen will get an investment environment and employment of thousands of people will be created."

 

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Train movement from Dhaka's Kamalapur to Faridpur's Bhanga Junction via Padma Bridge begun on a trial basis today.

The new locomotive supplied by Progress Rail Locomotives Inc. of the United States took off with the seven-coach train at 10:07am and reached Bhanga junction railway station at 12:18pm.

Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan along with President of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Railways Ministry ABM Fazle Karim Chowdhury, several members of the committee, local parliamentarians of Shariatpur and Faridpur are traveling on the train.

Besides Secretary of the Ministry of Railways Humayun Kabir, Bangladesh Railways Director General Kamrul Ahsan, senior railway officials, representatives of contractor company China Railway Group Limited (CREC) were present.

With this trial run, trains are running for the first time on the newly constructed 82km track.

Railways staff said that it will take a little over two hours to reach Bhanga from Kamalapur.

Earlier, on 4 April, a train was run experimentally from Bhanga to Mawa end of Padma Bridge.

In early 2016, the project was approved by the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC).

Exim Bank of China is giving Tk21,037 crores to the project which is assumed to cost Tk39,247 crores.

Under this project, a total of 215.2 kilometres of rail lines including loop lines will be constructed.

The railway line is being constructed in three phases. Out of this, the work of the 37 km Gendaria-Mawa section and 42 km Mawa-Bhanga section is nearing completion, while work on the 87 km Bhanga-Jashore section is in full swing.

The entire Dhaka-Jashore railway project is scheduled to be completed by June 2024.

There will be 20 stations from Dhaka to Jashore. Out of these, 14 new stations are being built anew and the existing ones are being modernised. Once completed, the trains will be able to run at a speed of 120 to 130 kmph.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to inaugurate this railway on 10 October.

 

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The government will acquire more land in Sonagazi upazila of Feni to build four combined cycle power plants to meet the rising energy demand from Chattogram's under-construction economic zones, including Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar.

Besides, a solar and a wind power plant will also be built on 386.44 acres of land, which will cost Tk21.19 crore to acquire, said officials of the Electricity Generation Company of Bangladesh (EGCB), the implementing organisation.

Each of the combined cycle power plants will have 600MW capacity, while the solar and wind power plants will have capacities of 100MW and 24MW, respectively.

At present, a 75MW solar-based power plant is under construction at Sonagazi at a cost of Tk746.76 crore. The World Bank is lending Tk621 crore to this project.

The work of establishing the country's largest economic zone, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar (BSMSN), is underway on 30,000 acres of land in Mirsrai and Sitakunda upazilas of Chattogram and Sonagazi upazila of Feni.

The new power plants have been planned mainly with the aim of supplying electricity to the Shilpa Nagar.

Md Nazmul Alam, executive director at the EGCB, said the state-run company has already acquired 1,000 acres of land in Sonagazi where the 75MW solar power plant is under construction.

"Now a new 100MW solar power plant will be established with a Singapore-based company, Hero Asia Singapore," he mentioned.

Once the land is acquired, construction work will start on the solar power plant and also a 24MW wind power plant, Nazmul Alam said.

He noted that it will take time to build the combined cycle power plants because they will be built in stages according to the priority of the government.

Officials of the EGCB said a wind power project was taken up earlier in Sonagazi but was unsuccessful. To ensure success this time, they are actively pursuing proper project implementation based on a comprehensive survey.

The Bangladesh Power Development Board constructed a 0.9MW wind-based power plant near the dam along the River Muhuri in Sonagazi in 2005. Three years later, a 1MW wind power plant was constructed in Kutubdia, Cox's Bazar.

However, both the plants are now inoperative due to a lack of supervision and interest of the power development board.

Meanwhile, as part of the land acquisition project approval process, a project evaluation committee meeting will be held at the Planning Commission on Sunday.

As per the land acquisition proposal, the target of land acquisition will be achieved by next year.

 

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The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) today approved a tk4,282.76cr project to ensure expansion and modernisation of the facilities at Mongla Port in Bagerhat.

The approval came from a meeting of the ECNEC held with its Chairperson and Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair at the NEC Conference Room in the city's Sher-e-Bangla Nagar area.

Briefing reporters after the meeting, Planning Minister MA Mannan said a total of 19 projects were approved today involving an overall estimated cost of tk18,066.52cr. "Of the total project cost, tk12,060.19cr will come from the government of Bangladesh portion, tk450.72cr from the concerned organisation's own fund while the rest of tk5,555.61cr as project assistance," he added.

Of the approved 19 projects, 13 are new while seven are revised projects.

The Mongla Port Authority under the Ministry of Shipping will implement the project by June 2027 with tk3,782.36cr loan from China on G-2-G basis.

The main objectives of the project are ensuring modern port facilities at Mongla alongside enhancing its container handling capacity, constructing container terminal as well as container delivery yard and container yard, ensuring hazardous cargo handling facilities.

The main project operations include general works, land development, pavement, marines structures and handling equipments.

The other projects approved in the meeting are: Upgrading district highways into due standard and width, Khulna Zone, first revised with an additional cost of tk106.17cr, Upgrading Feni (Mohammad Ali Bazar)-Chagalnaiya-Korerhut Road (Dhaka-Chattogram old Highway) and constructing Shuvopur Bridge over River Feni) with tk549.93cr, Emergency rehabilitation and reconstruction of different roads, bridges and culverts affected during the flood in 2022 under Sunamganj and Habiganj road division with tk2,681.24cr, Construction of Kodomrosum Bridge over River Sitalakshya near five number Ghat under Narayanganj City Corporation, first revised with an additional cost of tk144.43cr.

In addition to these, the other approved projects are Physical Infrastructures development of Gazipur City Corporation (road and drains), third revised with no additional cost, Land acquisition for constructing sewerage treatment plant at Reyerbazar area with tk1,780cr, Constructing Majar Mosque on the premises of Bangladesh Supreme Court with tk110.58cr, Developing transmission infrastructures in the Southern region of Chattogram Division and at Kaliakoir Hi-Tech City with tk2,762.43cr, Cent percent reliable and sustainable electrification at Hatia Island, Nijhum Island and Kutubdia Island, first revised with an additional cost of tk262.76cr.

The other projects approved in the meeting are: Construction of 13 new buffer godowns in different districts of the country for preservation of fertilisers and ensuring distribution facilities, third revised with a reduced cost of tk1.36cr, Strengthening distribution operations of seeds by BADC at farmers level with tk282.62cr, Integrated livestock development in the riverine char areas of Manikganj, Dhaka, Munshiganj, Rajbari, Faridpur, Madaripur and Shariatpur districts with tk303.67cr, Protecting Old Hijla, Baushia and Horinathpur areas under Hijla upazila from the River Erosion of Meghna with tk628.86cr, Protecting Majhirghat Zero Point area from the erosion of right embankment of River Padma under Zanzira upazila of Shariatpur district with tk859.77cr, Construction of accommodation for the insolvent valiant freedom fighters, first revised with an additional cost of tk1,973.54cr, Further development of Bangladesh Agricultural University, first revised with an additional cost of tk363.70cr, Improving capacity of womenfolk through creating scopes in productive and potential works, second phase with tk148.40cr and Chandpur Town Protection Rehabilitation with tk827.02cr.


The meeting also approved the increased timeframe of a project without raising its cost.

Ministers and State Ministers attended the meeting while planning commission members and secretaries concerned were present.

 

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Highlights:
  • Power Cell appoints foreign consultant
  • It will play a vital role in saving foreign currency
  • It will reduce dependency on foreign testing laboratories

The government has taken a move to set up an electrical testing laboratory, the first of its kind in the country, aiming to provide world-class testing, inspection and certification services required for a vibrant power system network.

Despite tremendous growth in the Power Sector, Bangladesh does not have any accredited electrical testing laboratory (Low, Medium or High Voltage) for third party testing and certification.

According to official sources, an Italian consultant, appointed by Power Cell, the technical wing of the Power Division, has already submitted its draft report on feasibility, technical and financial aspects of the laboratory.

"We hope we can take the physical move on setting up the electrical testing lab if the report of the consultant is accepted as an impartial and independent one," Mohammad Hossain, director general of the Power Cell, told UNB.

He said this lab will not only ensure the quality and standard of equipment purchased by different authorities in the country, but will play a vital role in saving foreign currency as well.

"Currently, we get some limited services from the lab of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet). But in most of the cases we have to spend thousands of dollars to get a typed test report from a bidder which pushes up the overall cost of a project", he added.

An official document in this regard reveals, the vision of the government is to provide quality electricity to all by 2041. Commendable achievement has been made in the power sector during the last decade in meeting the target.

Power System Master Plan 2016 has been drawn up with a target to generate 60,000 MW by 2041. To achieve the Vision 2041, an enormous number of power plants need to be set up with huge expansion of transmission and distribution networks.

The growth in the power sector encouraged many private sector companies to build manufacturing plants in Bangladesh to manufacture transformers, breakers, CT/PTs and switchgears.

The growth in the power sector requires transmission and distribution utilities to procure hundreds and thousands of power and distribution transformers with associated switchgears, electrical apparatus/equipment and line items.

In absence of accredited electrical testing laboratories electric utilities and private sector entities have to rely on certificates of foreign Electrical Testing Laboratory, which costs them a lot of foreign currency.

To reduce the dependency on foreign testing laboratories, an accredited high voltage electrical testing laboratory is needed in the country.

Official sources said the Power Cell is now conducting the feasibility through its Italian consultant under funding support from the World Bank's International Development Association (IDA).

The consultant's scopes of works include assessing the potential for setting up a world class electrical product testing lab and design the institutional certificating organization of high-voltage, as an independent medium-voltage authority of and the low-voltage proposed laboratory electrical for testing equipment.

It will conduct a detailed feasibility study with cost estimates of goods, works and services and also environmental impacts; machinery and testing.

It will also prepare all administrative and legal documents necessary for setting up the laboratory and review the existing electrical equipment testing laboratory facilities by other utilities of the Power Division and make linkage with these existing laboratory facilities of technical, financial, management and HR aspects.


The government plans to launch seaplane service to facilitate tourists visiting Cox's Bazar to travel to Saint Martin's Island throughout the year, Cox's Bazar Development Authority (CDA) Chairman Commodore Mohammad Nurul Absar said today.

"However, only a limited number of tourists will be allowed to travel there in order to protect the environment. Therefore, registration is being made mandatory for all tourists," the CDA chairman said while speaking at a views exchange programme in Cox's Bazar on Thursday (14 September).

Mentioning that a large number of tourists flock to Saint Martin's Island during every tourist season, he said these trips are having a serious impact on the environment and surroundings of Saint Martin's Island.

"Therefore, the inclusion of seaplanes is under consideration to facilitate the travel of a restricted number of tourists to Saint Martin. The government is actively working towards the swift implementation of this service," he added.

He also highlighted the government's comprehensive development plans for Cox's Bazar.

"The region has already seen significant progress. In addition to the ongoing projects, efforts are underway to elevate Cox's Bazar into a premier tourist destination that aligns with international standards," he stated.

He went on to say plans for cable car installations from Cox's Bazar to Moheshkhali and Cox's Bazar to Teknaf are in the pipeline.

A vast undersea aquarium at Sabrang Tourism Park, circular bus terminal, marina bay resort, Khurushkul smart city, theme park, eco-resort, and riverine tourism in Chowfaldandi - all of these projects are currently being fast-tracked for completion, he added.

 

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The government has decided to permit up to 375cc motorcycles on the local roads if they are manufactured locally, according to meeting minutes by the Ministry of Home Affairs.

The meeting was held on 7 September headed by Home Minister Asaduzzaman Khan Kamal.

The minutes of the meeting have been sent to the government authorities concerned including the Ministry of Commerce, Ministry of Industries, Roads and Highways Department, Inspector General of Police, Trade and Tariff Commission, Road Transport Authority and Bangladesh Motorcycle Assemblers and Manufacturers Association (BMAMA).

The development put an end to months-long speculation and confusion that started to escalate two years back when the Ministry of Industries started to award approvals for factories to locally manufacture up to 500cc motorcycles.

The decision was followed by the amendment in the Import Policy Order by the Ministry of Commerce that allowed the import of raw materials and parts for local manufacturing of up to 500 cc motorcycles, up from the prevailing limit of 165 cc.

However, local manufacturing of higher cc motorcycles that is subject to comparatively bigger investments was yet to begin as the road permit was not guaranteed until the 7 September meeting.

"We appreciate the government nod that cleared many confusions to attract further investment in the motorcycle manufacturing industry," said Matiur Rahman, president of BMAMA and managing director and chairman of Uttara Motors.

Companies can now plan their investments and products," he added.

Uttara Motors, which manufactures the market-leading Bajaj Motorcycles in Bangladesh, is ready to manufacture the first batch of 250 cc Pulsar N in 45 days of receiving type approval for the new model from the BRTA. The company applied for the approval in early June this year.

Ifad Motors is going to manufacture Royal Enfield motorcycles at its Chattogram factory next year.

Runner Automobiles, the motorcycle manufacturing pioneer in the country, has been exporting up to 500 cc bikes for years, as allowed by the government.

The other brands are also analysing the possibility of launching higher cc motorcycles sooner.

However, some industry players expressed frustration over not allowing the locally assembled completely knocked-down imported units on the extended slab. According to them, it was financially risky to invest in manufacturing higher cc motorcycles before testing the market first.

Some also expressed their frustration regarding the government's continuation of some restrictions on motorcycle engine capacity.


The government has initiated a move to gradually upgrade the existing conventional grid system to a "Smart Grid" within the next few years.

As part of the move, initially the smart grid system will be established under the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh (PGCB) and Dhaka Power Distribution Company Limited (DPDC).

According to official sources, Power Cell, a technical wing of the Power Division under the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources, has already appointed the Boston Consulting Group (BCG), a US-based consulting firm, to conduct a survey to assess the current state of the national grid and connected utilities and also identify needs for the new system.

BCG already submitted a report titled: "Technical Assistance for the Smart Grid Roadmap for Bangladesh Power Utilities".

The BGC conducted the survey under financial support of the US Trade and Development Agency and as a follow-up, the USTDA signed an agreement with Power Cell on 1 June to provide $2 million as grant for the next survey and technical assistance.

Power Cell officials said under the agreement, BCG will conduct a more comprehensive and detailed study of the overall power system, as well as of all power utilities, assessing their technical and financial needs.

"Actually, a US consulting firm will prepare a roadmap to convert the overall system into a smart grid system where everything will be operated digitally and an automated system will be established replacing the existing manual system," Mohammad Hossain, director general of Power Cell, told UNB.

According to the Power Division's official statistics, as of 13 September, 2023, the country's power generation capacity was 27,834 MW including off-grid renewable and captive power, while the highest generated in a day was 15,648 MW.

The length of transmission lines is 14,934 circuit kilometres, there are 63,895 grid substations, and the length of distribution lines is 643,000 km.

The total number of consumers is 45.4 million (4.54 crore) and system loss is 7.65 percent.

The government set a target to increase the power generation capacity to 40,000 MW by 2030 and 60,000 MW by 2041.

Officials said the government has taken the move to establish the smart grid in order to properly manage the burgeoning system, which has been growing fast on the back of strong economic growth.

They said the consulting firm BCG will submit its next report in December, based on which the PGCB and DPDC will undertake pilot projects to implement the smart grid system.

Meanwhile, in the report submitted with the initial survey, BGC identified cyber security as a core area where power utilities including the PGCB are lagging behind in ensuring grid security and stability.

It identified eight core challenges and 28 technology solutions and initiatives to implement a roadmap for establishing the Smart Grid, while 15 challenges have been identified for the distribution segment of the power sector

The core challenges have been identified as power interruptions, inconsistent power quality, manual operation and limited visibility of assets, increasing variability of supply, improving billing efficiency and reducing non-technical loss, improved customer satisfaction, lack of electric vehicle charging points and incomplete revenue realisation.

BCG also identified five challenges for the transmission segment of the power sector, namely high frequency loss, rising transmission loss, manual operation of grid assets and reactive VAR (Volt-Amps Reactive) management.

Lastly two challenges have been identified for the generation segment of the sector: high frequency variation and power interruption.


Saudi Arabia's renowned data centre manufacturing and power generation company DataVolt will set up a data centre at Bangabandhu Hi-Tech City in Gazpur's Kaliakair involving $100 million.

DataVolt's Chief Strategy Officer (CSO) Ayad Al Amri made the announcement during a bilateral meeting with State Minister for Information and Communication Technology (ICT) Zunaid Ahmed Palak at a hotel in the capital on Tuesday.

The Hi-Tech Park Authority has initially assured them of allotting 3 acres of land in the hi-tech city for the company.

The company also said that it will set up a state-of-the-art data centre on that land.

At the meeting, the State Minister for ICT Division highlighted the government's various incentives and future market prospects to invest in hi-tech parks.

Palak also thanked DataVolt for expressing their interest and pledged full cooperation on behalf of the ministry

The meeting also discussed in detail the potential of investment in ICT and other sectors of Bangladesh.

Managing Director of Bangladesh Hi-Tech Park Authority GSM Zafar Ullah and officials concerned with DataVolt and Hi-Tech Park Authority were present on the occasion.

 

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The contract for the construction of Kewatkhali Bridge over the Brahmaputra River in Mymensingh was signed today.

The estimated contract value for the construction work is Tk2,138 crore, and the duration of the contract is three years.

Road Transport and Highways Division secretary ABM Amin Ullah Nuri was present during the contract signing event for the project's sole package at Sarak Bhaban in the capital.

Noor E-Alam, project director for the Kewatkhali Bridge construction project, and SU YAN, authorised representative of China State Construction Engineering Corporation and Spectra Engineers Limited, signed the agreement on behalf of the Roads and Highways Division and the joint venture contractor company respectively.

On 17 August, 2016, at a meeting on "Mymensingh Divisional City Development" held at the Chameli Hall of Prime Minister's Office, under the chairmanship of the prime minister, a decision was taken to build three new bridges over the Brahmaputra River (at Zero Point, Khagdahar area and near the existing railway bridge) to connect with the new city.

Following the prime minister's instructions, a feasibility study and design for the construction of a steel arch bridge in the vicinity of the existing railway bridge was approved by the ECNEC on 24 August, 2021, titled "Construction of Kewatkhali Bridge at Mymensingh".

The total approved estimated cost of the project is Tk3,263.63 crore. The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank will provide loans worth Tk1,909.79 crore and the government will provide the remaining amount from its own fund.

The main component of the project includes the construction of a 1.1km bridge, including a 320m steel arch bridge over the Brahmaputra River.

The designed 320m long 3-span steel arch bridge has a span length of 180m. This steel arch bridge is going to be built as the second and largest steel arch bridge built in Bangladesh.

Under this project, pillars will be installed on the two banks of the Brahmaputra River, so there will be no obstruction to water flow.

In addition, under this construction package, three road overpasses with a length of 670.80m, two railway overpasses with a length of 240m, 4-lane highway with 6.20km of SMVT (Slow Moving Vehicular Traffic) lane, a toll plaza adjacent to the main bridge and a rest area with a tourist center will be constructed.

For the purpose of monitoring the steel arch bridge after construction, a Bridge Health Monitoring System will also be implemented.


Russian nuclear corporation Rosatom plans to take part in the construction of a research reactor in Bangladesh, Head of the corporation Alexey Likhachev said on the sidelines of the 67th annual session of the General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) in Vienna, Austria.

Research reactors are nuclear fission-based nuclear reactors that serve primarily as a neutron source. Compared to nuclear power reactors, research reactors have a simpler design, operate at lower temperatures, require far less fuel and, therefore, result in far less waste, according to IAEA.

"In Bangladesh, specialists have been dreaming of a powerful research reactor for many years. We plan to build it in Bangladesh together with our Bengali partners," he said, reports Russian state-owned news agency TASS.

Likhachev added that in early October, Rosatom will deliver fuel for the country's first nuclear power plant in Rooppur. The company expects to take further steps for developing this project as well as cooperation in new directions.

Rooppur NPP

The Rooppur nuclear power plant, with two VVER-1200 reactors, is under construction 160 km from Dhaka.

For the first nuclear power plant in Bangladesh, a Russian project with VVER-1200 reactors was selected and successfully implemented at two power units of the Novovoronezhskaya NPP in Russia.

According to the TASS report, this is an evolutionary project of generation III+, which fully meets international safety requirements.

Construction of the plant began in 2021. The engineering division of Rosatom carries out the design and construction of the facility.

The life cycle of VVER-1200 reactors is 60 years, with the possibility of extending the operating life for another 20 years.

Construction of the first and second power units of the plant is currently underway.

 

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The first shipment of nuclear fuel for Unit-1 of Bangladesh's maiden-2,400 megawatt (MW) Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant (RNPP) has arrived in Dhaka today (28 September).

The uranium from Russia landed at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport in Dhaka on Thursday (28 September) afternoon, RNPP Project Director and Nuclear Scientist Dr Shawkat Akbar told The Business Standard.

Produced at the Novosibirsk Chemical Concentrates Plant (NCCP) in Russia – a subsidiary of Rosatom's fuel manufacturing company TVEL – the uranium will now be transported by road to the project site in Ishwardi, Pabna.

The Bangladesh Army and law enforcement officers have been assigned to provide special security during the transport, the project director added.

To this end, the finance ministry guaranteed Tk4,346 crore in compensation for any accidents or damage during the nuclear fuel transportation from Dhaka airport to the project area by road.

Rosatom Director General Alexey Likhachev will officially hand over the shipment to the Rooppur project authorities on 5 October.

Bangladesh is implementing its maiden nuclear power generation infrastructure, the Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant at Ishwardi‎ upazila in ‎Pabna‎.

As per the project plan, the first unit of the 2,400MW nuclear power plant is expected to commence commercial operation in the first quarter of 2024.

The $13 billion project is being implemented by the Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission with the technical and financial support of Russia.

Before fuel delivery, safety measures and a lot of essential infrastructure, such as power transmission lines and telecommunication, have to be ensured and certified by the International Atomic Energy Agency's (IAEA) visiting team, said officials related to the project.

The Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission (BAEC) inked a contract with Russia's state-run uranium mining and nuclear fuel production company TVEL in August 2019 for importing nuclear fuel for the plant.

Sources at the BAEC said one-third of the nuclear fuel in the plant will have to be changed every 18 months.

 

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New era in aviation: Hasina partially opens Dhaka airport’s third terminal

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The much-awaited third terminal of Dhaka's Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, which aims to enhance passenger services and expand air links with the rest of the world, has been partially opened.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the new terminal on Saturday.

The terminal marks a significant step towards Bangladesh's goal of establishing itself as a global aviation hub, according to the premier.

"When the Awami League came to power in 1996, our airport did not have much to offer. We have taken numerous development initiatives since then. We built two international airports in Chattogram and Sylhet," she said.

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Emphasising Bangladesh's advantageous geographical location, Hasina underscored the nation's potential to serve as a gateway between the East and the West.

"That's why we are working on transforming Cox's Bazar into an international airport. We are also developing all local airports to facilitate inter-district travel by air."

After the inauguration ceremony, a Biman Bangladesh Airlines flight took off from Dhaka using the third terminal.
The terminal is not expected to be fully operational for about another year. Currently, it has limited functionality, which is why the Civil Aviation Authority is calling its launch a 'soft opening'.

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Air Vice Marshal M Mafidur Rahman, chairman of the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh, said 90 percent of construction work has been completed for the soft opening and from Saturday, airlines would be able to use the new parking bay of the terminal.

It may take another year for the terminal to become operational after completion of systems integration and calibration, according to him

The new terminal will be connected to the elevated expressway, underground railway, and the airport railway station through an underground tunnel, Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha reports.
Hajj pilgrims will also be able to access the third terminal from the Ashkona Hajj Camp via an underground tunnel.

"We can say the third terminal is the first milestone to realise Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's dream to make Bangladesh an aviation hub," Mafidur said.

 

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Padma Bridge: Three trains to be operated on Dhaka-Bhanga route

09 Oct 2023

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A decision has been finalized to operate three trains on Dhaka-Bhanga route through Padma Bridge.

Besides, a list of fare for trains departing from Rajshahi, Khulna and Benapole via Padma Bridge to various destinations in the country has been published.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to open the new train service on Dhaka-Bhanga route through Padma Bridge on Tuesday.

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The premier will inaugurate the new route at a function at Mawa Railway Station in Munshiganj.

According to the project details, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will cross the Padma Bridge by a special train as the special train will arrive at Bhanga in Faridpur from Mawa Railway Station.

 

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the much-anticipated Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel constructed beneath the Karnaphuli River on Saturday (28 October).

She paid the toll and became the first passenger on the tunnel.

Earlier, she unveiled a plaque on the west bank of river Karnaphuli at Patenga and after crossing the tunnel, she will unwrap another plaque on the south bank of the river at Anwara at 11am.

The nearly 10km-long tunnel, including approach road, constructed beneath river Karnaphuli between Patenga and Anwara upazila which was built at a cost of Taka 10,374 crore will be opened to vehicles from 6am on Monday (30 October).

It would connect the proposed Asian Highway with Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar Highway by reducing the distance by 40km.

She will also open and lay the foundation stones of some projects in Chattogram on the occasion.

The premier will also release a special commemorative postage stamp, opening day envelope and a special seal marking the inauguration of the first-ever underwater road tunnel.

Sheikh Hasina, also Awami League president, will address a public rally on Korean EPZ (KEPZ) ground at Anwara today as a huge number of people including leaders and workers of the ruling Awami League and associate bodies are expected to attend it.

AL's Chattogram south district unit is organizing the rally as a festive atmosphere is prevailing all over the district for the gala occasion.

"All preparations are at the final stage as Chattogram as well as the entire country is eagerly waiting for the grand inauguration of the much-awaited Bangabandhu tunnel," Chattogram South District AL president Motaherul Islam Chowdhury told BSS.

He said a large boat shaped stage are being erected in the venue as Road Transport and Bridges Minister and Awami League General Secretary Obaidul Quader will also be on the dais with Mothaherul Islam Chowdhury in the chair.

Chowdhury said all-out preparations have been taken to facilitate participants of the rally as sanitations and sufficient water supply will be ensured at the venue and separate arrangements for smooth participation of the females as well.

"Our public rally will be turned into a vast human sea with the participation of nearly a million of people," he expected.

He said Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel is a matter of pride not only for Chattogram but for the entire nation.

Its 'dream comes true' for millions especially for the residents of commercial capital and port city as the much-anticipated multilane underwater expressway tunnel, first of its kind in South Asia, constructed beneath the river Karnaphuli, a major watercourse of this region, will be inaugurated today.

In a press briefing on Thursday in Dhaka, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said 17,260 vehicles would be able to use the tunnel on a daily basis equating to some 7.6 million vehicles a year.

The tunnel would help increase the country's annual GDP growth by 0.166pc, he added.

"The tunnel will also cut the distance among Chattogram city, the seaport and the airport as it will play a crucial role in making the economy more vibrant," Quader said.

Talking to BSS, Md. Harunur Rashid Chowdhury, director of the mega project, said the tunnel is expected to elevate Bangladesh into a new level of prominence in the world, as it is also the region's first ever under river road tunnel.

It will turn Chattogram into "one city with two towns" like Chinese city of Shanghai as it will expand the periphery of the city with boosting economy and opening new doors of immense potentials for industrialization, tourism and expansion of trade and commerce and developing road connectivity in the entire region.

Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry (FBCCI) president Mahbubul Alam said Bangladesh is going to enter the era of underwater road tunnel which is of course a pride for the entire nation as well it will facilitate the business community hugely.

The tunnel would boost industrialization in the region as two export processing zones in Chattogram-KEPZ in Anwara and Chattogram EPZ in Halishahar- and Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone (CEIZ) in Anwara will be highly facilitated by the tunnel, he said.

Alam said it would connect the proposed Asian Highway with Dhaka-Chattogram-Cox's Bazar Highway by reducing distance by 40km and it will also facilitate the ongoing and planned power and energy hub in Cox's Bazar, which is already a tourist hub of the country.

Thus it will have significant contributions to the country's GDP like Padma Bridge, the FBCCI president said.

Apart from the tunnel, he said, if a Dhaka-Chattogram expressway can be built and a master plan is taken to boost a planned industrialization on the bank of river Karnaphuli to turn it as a Smart city, it will be highly beneficial for country's economy as well as it can boost Bangladesh's connectivity with 'seven sisters' of India including Mizoram and Manipur expanding trade and business as well as tourism in the region.

As per the project details, the length of the entire route is 9.39 kilometers (5.83 mi), with the tunnel making up 3.32 kilometers (2.06 mi) of the length while it's diameter is 10.80 meters (35.4 ft).

It has been built at a cost of Taka 10,374 crore and of which around half is financed by the Exim Bank of China.

It will improve the Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox's Bazar highway network. A Chinese company, China Communications Construction Company, constructed it.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina and Chinese President Xi Jinping inaugurated the construction site of the Karnaphuli Tunnel on October 14, 2017.

On 24 February 2019, Sheikh Hasina also inaugurated the tunnel boring phase.

The multilane tunnel route passes through the river close to Navy College on one side and Korean Export Processing Zone (KEPZ) and Karnaphuli Fertilizer Company (KAFCO) on the other.

It will also ease traffic congestion on two bridges over the Karnaphuli River.

Chattogram deputy commissioner Abul Bashar Mohammad Fakruzzaman said the tunnel will expedite the county's economy and regional trade and commerce by turning Chattogram into one city with two towns.

A three-layer security measures will be ensured at the venue for the inauguration of the tunnel, he said.


As the term of the government nears its end, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved 37 development projects worth Tk52,612 crore on Tuesday, the second highest number in the last five years and three times higher than usual.

A record 46 projects were presented for approval at the meeting. But nine of them did not get the green light due to time constraints. They will be presented again at the next Ecnec meeting, as journalists were briefed.

Normally, each Ecnec meeting approves 10-15 projects, but stakeholders have expressed concerns that too many projects are getting approval "without proper vetting" ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections.

Prior to the 2018 elections, over 40 projects were presented at each Ecnec meeting, but a maximum of 38 projects were approved during a single meeting.

At the post-Ecnec press conference, Planning Minister MA Mannan said the current government approved the projects for development purposes and not as election strategies.

Planning Division Secretary Satyajit Karmaker mentioned that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, who presided over the Ecnec meeting, emphasised that in the last 14-15 years, no project has received approval with just a simple checkmark. She highlighted that the country has seen significant development because the projects undergo thorough review before approval.

At the press conference, State Minister for Planning Shamsul Alam said there was a backlog of projects because the last Ecnec meeting was nearly two months ago.

At the time, the planning minister mentioned that the prime minister had ordered the quick completion of projects that are in the final stages of implementation and projects that are dependent on foreign loans.

"This is not about the election," he quoted the prime minister as saying at the meeting. "If a project can be completed quickly, the benefits will come quickly. Additionally, if a foreign loan project can be processed quickly, we will obtain the benefits of the project and some foreign currency."

The prime minister has once again ordered the creation of a dedicated fund for the maintenance of all roads.

The planning minister noted that the current government has built many roads but acknowledged that these roads often deteriorate quickly due to heavy rainfall.

"Rapid economic growth has also led to increased traffic, exceeding the capacity of roads and contributing to their deterioration," he added. "As a result, we face challenges in road maintenance."

In response to this situation, the prime minister suggested moving beyond the current maintenance approach and establishing a fund for the upkeep of national highways through toll collection.

"This approach will enable more effective road maintenance. The Road Transport and Highways Division, as well as the Bridges Division, are actively working on toll collection for specific roads and bridges," he said.

The projects received Ecnec approval on Tuesday, including the Tk8,556 crore Chattogram-Cox's Bazar Highway Improvement Project. The Japanese government will provide a loan of Tk5,709 crore for the project.

Ecnec also approved three gas-meter installation projects at a cost of Tk6437.54 crore.

Two projects, with a total value of Tk3,738 crore, have been approved for the production of essential vaccines in the country and the establishment of Essential Biotech and Research Centres. The ADB will provide a loan of Tk3,241 crore for these projects. These initiatives are expected to decrease import dependency and open avenues for vaccine exports.

Among other notable projects that have received approval are: Upgradation of Karnaphuli Tunnel Link Road with Anwara Upazila Link Road to 4-lane; Expansion and Modernisation of Amin Bazar Landfill; Jamuna River Sustainable Management Project-1 (Navigational Channel Development); Bridge constructions on the Meghna-Dhanagoda River for the Matlab North-Gazaria Road; construction of the Bogura-Rangpur-Syedpur gas transmission pipeline; and installation of offsite water supply facilities at Rooppur Nuclear Power Plant.



Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is inaugurating the 100-kilometre Dohazari to Cox's Bazar railway line today, establishing the first rail link to Bangladesh's southeast coast, Cox's Bazar, which will usher in a new age of trade and connectivity for the region.

Upon the opening of the iconic oyster-shaped railway station in Hajipara of Jhelongja union of Cox's Bazar, an official rail link will be established with the coastal town for the first time ever.

The railway line is part of the government's ambitious plans to develop the region and attract investment. The new rail line will reduce travel time between Cox's Bazar and other parts of the country, making it easier and more affordable for tourists and businesses to visit the region, say stakeholders.

Sheikh Hasina, also the Awami League president, is scheduled to inaugurate 15 projects and lay the foundation stones of four other projects including a 14.3km channel of the Matarbari deep-sea port.

According to the notification of the deputy commissioner, on this day, the prime minister will inaugurate 15 projects including railways and lay the foundation stones of four projects worth about Tk88,000 crore.

She is supposed to address a rally at 2:30pm in Moheshkhali's Matarbari. To welcome the PM, major strategic points of Cox's Bazar town and two sides of the roads are now adorned with banners, festoons, and billboards.

Stringent measures have been taken by law enforcement agencies to ensure foolproof security.

Cox's Bazar District Awami League general secretary, Mujibur Rahman, said they have made all necessary preparations to make this event successful.

New era begins

The railway line constructed at a cost of more than Tk18,000 crore will transform the economic landscape of the region, bringing radical changes to the business, industry, and tourism sectors.

Some 77 projects, including 25 mega projects, are currently underway in Cox's Bazar, with a total investment of Tk3 lakh crore.

Stakeholders say Cox's Bazar and Chattogram are emerging as the business hubs of South Asia, thanks to investments in railways, logistics, connectivity, and roads. The possibility of land transit with India through Chattogram and Ramgarh land port, a railway line with China through Myanmar, and land transit with South Asian countries will be created.

The region has already become an attractive destination for investors from various countries, including Japan, China, and India.

Abu Morshed Chowdhury, president of the Cox's Bazar Chamber of Commerce and Industry, told The Business Standard, "This rail link will be beneficial for various industries, including fish, salt, dry fruits, and vegetables. Economic activities will increase in the upazilas that have nine stations."

Matarbari deep-sea port: Key economic game changer

Construction of the Matarbari deep-sea port, in collaboration with the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), began in 2016.

Stakeholders say the deep-sea port will be a game changer for the Bangladesh economy. It is expected to start loading mother vessels in 2026.

The Matarbari deep-sea port, which is modelled after Japan's Kashima port, will play a vital role in South Asian trade with ASEAN countries.

Currently, most of Bangladesh's imported goods arrive at Singapore, Colombo, Hong Kong, or Malaysia by mother vessels, as the Chattogram port can only accommodate ships with a draft of up to 10 metres. Feeder vessels then transport the goods to Chattogram.

Once the Matarbari deep-sea port is completed, any ship in the world will be able to dock there, including ships with a length of 350 metres and a draft of 18 metres, said Chattogram Port Authority's chief hydrographer M Arifur Rahman.

Lighter vessels will then transport goods from Matarbari to the Chattogram port and the Bay Terminal, reducing time and cost and speeding up transportation.

Chattogram Port Authority Secretary Md Omar Farooq said that the Matarbari deep-sea port will be a transit port like the Port Kelang, Singapore and other ports. New routes will be launched with various ports of the world including Europe and the USA.

Rail line, airport to boost tourism in Cox's Bazar

Cox's Bazar will now be accessible by rail from Dhaka and Chattogram at half the cost of a bus ride. The government's development projects in Cox's Bazar and Teknaf will further boost rail tourism. Around 60-70 lakh tourists, mostly domestic, visit Cox's Bazar annually.

The government is developing Sabrang in Teknaf, Naf and Sonadia Island in Maheshkhali, and the country's first island-based tourism economic zone to attract foreign tourists.

The Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (Beza) has signed a land lease agreement with Singapore-based Inter Asia Group to establish the Sabrang Tourism Park.

Cox's Bazar International Airport will allow tourists, traders, and investors from around the world to fly directly to and from Cox's Bazar. The runway is being extended by 1,700 feet over the sea to meet international standards. Once completed, the airport will be able to accommodate all types of international flights and aircraft.

Dev projects centering the Bay of Bengal

Arrays of development projects are underway across the vast area along the Bay of Bengal, apart from Cox's Bazar district.

The country's largest industrial city is being built on 30,000 acres of land at Sonagazi in Feni, and Mirsarai-Sitakunda in Chattogram. Recently, the government has opened the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Tunnel built under the Karnaphuli River for vehicle movement.

Construction of the Chinese Economic and Industrial Zone (CEIZ) covering an area of 778 acres is underway at Anwara. A 1,320 MW coal-based power plant jointly owned by S Alam Group and China's SEPCO-3 has been set up in the Gandamra area of Banskhali near the Bay of Bengal.

Economist and former Chittagong University professor Dr Moinul Islam said the port, energy, and communication sector projects from Mirsrai on the Bay of Bengal to Cox's Bazar will have a far-reaching impact on the country's economy.

Khairul Alam Sujan, vice president of the Bangladesh Freight Forwarder Association, said the infrastructural landscape of the southern region of Chattogram has started to be transformed due to the development projects.


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The Roads and Highways Department (RHD) is working on a highway master plan to interlink the country's road network by 12 expressway routes to establish an extensive internal and cross-border connectivity.

The construction of these expressways will require a total investment of Tk1.91 lakh crore ($17.28 billion), covering a significant expansion of 1,508km of roads with expected implementation by 2041.

Syed Moinul Hasan, RHD's chief engineer, said the master plan aims to integrate all highways in the country into a unified network, which goes beyond the conventional road network.

The Asian Development Bank has drafted the "Highway Master Plan 2041" for the RHD, and a strategy paper for implementation will be formulated once the draft plan is approved in the first half of next year, an official of the department said, requesting anonymity.

The 12-expressway plan, spanning 10-12 years, necessitates an annual funding of $1.5 billion, the official said, adding that the government will prioritise public-private partnership (PPP) for construction.

The Finance Division and the Economic Relations Division will decide on the financing issues, the RHD executive added.

Earlier, several initiatives to build expressways on the Dhaka-Chattagram route did not progress due to cost concerns and prospect of a high-speed train line.

Rather, the authorities opted for a traditional road widening project and upgraded the country's most important trade route into a four-lane highway.

The Dhaka-Bhanga expressway is the country's lone access-control expressway that links the capital with the southwestern regions over the Padma Bridge.

Experts say neighbouring countries executed similar highway master plans in the 80s/90s. While constructing expressways may now pose challenges for Bangladesh, it is essential for continual progress and sustainable development, they say.

The proposed expressways

The expressways that have been given importance in the Highway Master Plan 2041 include Dhaka-Chattogram, Dhaka-Chattogram (elevated), Dhaka-Mymensingh, Dhaka-Sylhet, Dhaka Outer Ring Road, Dhaka-Bogura, Mirsharai-Cox's Bazar (via Bangabandhu Tunnel), Mymensingh-Bogura, Gabtoli to Paturia (upgrading the existing one) to Kazirhat, Feni-Barishal, Paturia-Daulatadia, and Jhenaidah-Khushtia-Dasuria.

Dr Mohammad Yunus, research director at the Bangladesh Institute of Development Studies (BIDS), told TBS that to become a developed country, Bangladesh needs to bring infrastructural changes.

"Every country has a master plan for infrastructure development. The highway master plan will be implemented on a priority basis in the long term. As a result, financing will not create much pressure," he said.

He said, in the current economic situation, big projects cannot be taken up now. "We have to wait for the situation to improve. But the master plan should be done now, so that projects can be implemented on priority basis as soon as funds are available."

Mohammad Emdad Ullah Mian, a member of the Physical Infrastructure Division of the Planning Commission, stressed the need for integrated master plans covering road, rail, rural roads, and waterways within the broader spectrum of communication infrastructure.

"The Planning Commission is actively considering the formulation of an Integrated Communication Masterplan," he added.

Md Shamsul Hoque, a communication expert and professor at Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (Buet), welcomed the plan for its departure from traditional highway construction.

He expressed, "Relying on outdated thinking, we've been expanding roads to 8/10 lanes without security or access control, allowing rickshaws to roam freely. This approach is flawed and has been a costly mistake over time."

Given our limited land and burgeoning population, a strategic shift to elevated ways is essential, he noted. This approach maximises land use without the need for additional spaces, mirroring successful models in Singapore and Hong Kong.

"It is not just about cost but strategic development, which holds the key to economic growth," the professor added.

Apart from strengthening internal road connectivity, the draft master plan foresees almost 350% growth in the cross-border flow of goods with the development of value chains across borders.

RHD officials said the proposed highway master plan will take into consideration multiple highways as slated in the South Asia Subregional Economic Cooperation (Sasec) linking the country's sea and land ports with major border points.

A number of Sasec highways already completed or under-construction include Dhaka-Tangail, Elenga-Hatikumrul-Rangpur, Dhaka-Sylhet, Sylhet–Tamabil and Khushtia-Jhinaidah-Jeshore.

How it differs from previous plans

According to RHD officials, a survey was done in 2018 for the construction of an expressway from Dhaka to Chattogram via Laksham at a cost of about Tk98 crore.

A design of the expressway was also formulated. According to an ADB study, the cost of constructing the 217 km expressway was estimated at $2.5 billion.

Besides, the Bangladesh Bridge Authority in 2016 took the initiative to construct a 225km elevated expressway on the Dhaka-Chittagong route.

However, none of the plans took off due to high costs and prospect of high-speed trains.

Also, the RHD prepared an expressway plan with the help of Buet experts to build dedicated expressways on North-South and East-West lines.

However, this plan was cancelled in 2021 on financing considerations.

RHD officials said the new master plan is more inclusive than previous ones as it encompasses both internal and cross-bordering connectivities.

 

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