The Saudi Fund for Development (SFD), a Saudi government agency that channels bilateral aid to developing countries through grants and soft loans, has approved US$ 50 million for the construction of a bridge over the Teesta River , and it is likely to provide more funds for a couple of big projects in Bangladesh, said an official.
The Board of Directors of the SFD approved the US$ 50 million fund in June this year for a PC Girder Bridge over the Teesta River and a four-member Bangladesh delegation leaves here for Saudi Arabia on Saturday to fine tune the loan conditions and other pending issues, Economic Relations Division (ERD) Joint Secretary Md Salim Reza told UNB.
He said he would lead the delegation. The other members of the delegation are Abdur Rouf, Deputy Chief of the Local Government Division, Project Director Shahidul Islam and Economic Councilor of Bangladesh Embassy in Riyadh Dr Mizanur Rahman.
Salim Reza said the ERD has already sent letters to different ministries seeking project proposals in sectors like infrastructure development, health and power to avail of support from the Saudi Fund. “We’re hopeful the SFD will come up with financing for a couple of projects, including one or two big ones, in Bangladesh.”
Following the Bangladesh delegation’s visit, Salim Reza said, a SFD delegation will visit Bangladesh to sign a US$50-million loan deal for the bridge project over the Teesta.
The government had earlier expected US$ 67.33 million from the SFD for the proposed 1490-metre long ‘press-stressed concrete girder’ bridge over the Teesta at Sundarganj upazila in Gaibandha district.
The bridge is expected to benefit people living particularly in Gaibandha, Kurigram and Lalmonirhat districts.
But, according to the ERD official, the SFD has eventually approved US$ 50 million fund while the remaining US$ 17.33 million is likely to come from OPEC fund, Kuwait or some other development partners as negotiations are ongoing on with them.
Another official at the ERD said in March this year, a SFD appraisal mission, led by Abdullah Al Shedokhi, visited Bangladesh from March 1-5 last and reviewed the progress of the SFD-funded projects in the country. The mission also visited the proposed site of the bridge and expressed their satisfaction.
He also said the project would help spur the economy of the region, especially the char areas.
Another official at the ERD said the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the construction of the bridge on Panchpirbazar-Chilmari upazila (headquarters) road over the Teesta River at Sundarganj upazila on November 5 last year.
Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) will implement the project. Of the total project cost, the government would provide US$ 13.70 million while the rest of US$ 67.33 million would come in project assistance.
The government earlier sent the DPP of the project to SFD for its funding. But, then the SFD suggested incorporating an approach road in the bridge project for which the DPP was again sent to the SFD for its consideration.
The ERD official said the appraisal mission also held a meeting with Economic Relations Division (ERD) Secretary Md Mejbahuddin and the Project Directors of the SFD-funded projects during their stay in Bangladesh in March.
The SFD funded projects in Bangladesh are upgradation of National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital from 50-300 bed ones (SFD $15 million), 250-bed National Institute of Ophthalmology and Hospital Project (SFD $7 million), construction of flyovers in Dhaka (Moghbazar-Mouchak flyover project with SFD assistance of $53.34 million), construction of 3rd Shitalakhya Bridge Project (SFD $ 45 million), construction of Shikalbaha 225 MW combined cycle dual fuel power plant ($53.33 million) and rehabilitation work on Teesta main canal and related structure under the command area of Teesta Bridge Project, phase-1 (SFD $ 0.23 million).
According to the LGED, the bridge will create a direct road communication network between Gaibandha and Kurigram districts, and it will reduce the distance between Dhaka and Shonahat Port of Kurigram by 120km. “Three million people can now look forward to saving money and time while commuting between Dhaka and the three districts,” said an official.
The residents of Kurigram and Gaibandha have long been demanding a bridge over the Teesta River in order to make the road communication with the capital smoother.