December 7, 2014
First of all, I would like to thank you for inviting to this important event.
Japan International Cooperation Agency or JICA is a time-tested development partner to Bangladesh having been operating since 1973. This year, the prime ministers of Japan and Bangladesh met twice and agreed to strengthen the development partnership through the initiative of "BIG-B" which stands for "the Bay of Bengal Industrial Growth Belt."
BIG-B is an initiative to accelerate industrial agglomeration along the Dhaka-Chittagong-Cox's Bazar belt and beyond. BIG-B expects Bangladesh to take advantage of its linchpin position between South Asia and South-East Asia and play the role of a regional "node and hub," so that Bangladesh will reshape herself as a sparkling trading nation which is deeply incorporated into global value chains. BIG-B consists of three pillars: 1) Supplying reliable energy and power for industries, 2) Fostering transport connectivity as a regional node and hub and 3) Promoting domestic and foreign direct investment.
Let me explain our cooperation to infrastructure according to these three pillars.
First, to supply reliable energy and power for industries. As we all know, Bangladesh is now at a historical turning point of primary energy. It has to diversify its source of electric power and substantially increase its generation capacity to meet the surging demand for electricity. Hence we have just started assisting the Power Division to review the Power System Master Plan 2010 by reconsidering the power-supply scenario assuming alternative availabilities of primary energy.
Our most recent investment project is adapting to the new power supply scenario by promoting import of coal. The project is to construct an ultra-super critical coal fired power plant of 1200MW as well as the country's first ever deep sea port of 18 meter depth for handling imported coal at Matarbari Island in Cox's Bazar District. The upcoming Mabarbari deep sea port will enable large ships of 80,000 ton to directly enter the port for unloading coal. Moreover, the deep sea port can be expanded to construct a coal center for other coal-fired power plants, a LNG terminal and even a container terminal for manufacturing industries. We are considering a comprehensive master plan for this future expansion.
Now, the second pillar of BIG-B is to foster transport connectivity as a regional node and hub. JICA has been supporting improvement of Dhaka-Chittagong connectivity by double tracking of a part of the Dhaka-Chittagong Railway, that is, the 61km section between Laksam and Chinkiastana. We have also just started a project to expand Kanchpur, Meghna and Gumti Bridges on the Dhaka-Chittagong National Highway No.1. The project will widen Kanchpur Bridge to 8 lanes and Meghna and Gumti Bridges to 6 lanes, thereby increasing the average traffic speed from the current 14km/h to 61km/h.
Speaking of bridges, we have been assisting to replace or construct 68 bridges in the eastern Bangladesh, that is, Dhaka, Chittagong, Comilla and Sylhet and are now considering replacement or construction of 61 bridges in the western Bangladesh from next year.
We are also supporting improvement urban transport by constructing Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit (MRT) Line 6 which is the elevated urban railway, totaling 20.1km with 16 stations from Uttara North to Bangladesh Bank. It will carry five lakh passengers per day and shorten the travel time from the current 2 hours to 36 minutes. Simultaneously, we are assisting the concerned authorities to review the Strategic Transport Plan for the Dhaka Metropolitan Area to formulate the optimal plan of a mass rapid transit network in Dhaka City and a suburban road network which will bypass the urban center.
We are also considering improvement of roads and bridges to enhance regional connectivity with India's Northeastern States and its State of West Bengal.
Finally the third pillar of BIG-B, an enabling environment for domestic and foreign direct investment. We have been supporting water supply projects in Chittagong and Khulna. We have also just started a project to enhance the functions of the five City Corporations, namely Chittagong, Comilla, Gazipur, Narayanganj and Rangpur by strengthening the city governments' administrative capacity and improving urban infrastructure such as roads, bridges, drainage facilities and streetlights. The quintessence of the project is to link governance improvement to infrastructure development through a performance-based evaluation and fund allocation system.
JICA will be assisting to construct Economic Zones to promote FDI from Japan. We have identified a few sites in the vicinity of Dhaka and will support the feasibility studies of the Economic Zones to finance off-site infrastructure and equity investment for on-site development.
In conclusion, I would like to mention our direct support to the RMG industry. JICA has been assisting on a pilot basis to improve the building safety of RMG factories by conducting building assessment based on Japanese technology and providing concessional loans for the following retrofitting or rebuilding works. The first two factories have completed assessment and design stages and will initiate retrofitting works this month. 10 to 12 factories will be following suit. We are considering scaling up the pilot program to support much more RMG factories in Dhaka and Chittagong.