South Korea vies with China to build $10bn Bangladesh metro

The Chattogram skyline (Imamul H Ifaz/CC BY-SA 4.0)
South Korea and China are competing to build a metro in Chattogram, Bangladesh’s second city. The project, the second in its kind in the country, is to be procured on a public–private partnership (PPP) basis.

South Korea said it would enter the contest during a meeting with Bangladesh’s PPP Authority in Seoul on 2 March. The gathering brought together the authority and the South Korean government, as well as two of its agencies, Korea Overseas Infrastructure and the Urban Development Corporation.

According to Bangladeshi news site Financial Express, Abul Bashar, the director-general of the authority, said it welcomed South Korea’s interest in the metro and would pass on its offer to the Prime Minister’s Office for further consideration.

He said: “We will inform South Korea which Bangladesh agency will work on the proposal. They will maintain communication with that agency and select investors in their country. This is how PPP projects are implemented.”

The Dhaka Mass Transit Company, which is implementing a similar system in the capital, will also be consulted.

Last month, South Korea expressed interest in conducting a pre-feasibility study for the metro, and the Korea International Cooperation Agency offered a grant of $5m to carry it out.

The Koreans are up against a bid from four state-owned Chinese contractors, who are planning to build the network as well as a smart city on land reclaimed from the sea. The Chinese are offering to fund both schemes in exchange for a share of the profits from its operation, and also offered ex gratia funding for a feasibility study.

Another feasibility study for the metro, carried out in 2019 by engineering firm Basasthan, estimated that the cost of building three lines would be a little over $10bn.

Chattogram, or Chittagong as it is also known, is the busiest seaport on the Bay of Bengal, with a population of 8.7 million in its metropolitan area.

As well as the metro, the Koreans presented proposals to improve the water supply for Bangabandhu Industrial City in Chattogram’s Mirsarai district, the construction of a solar power plant and the development of a community centre in Dhaka’s Gulshan-Banani areas.

They also offered to work on a $870m scheme to construct an underground electrical distribution system at Purbachal New Town, Bangladesh’s largest planned settlement, to the northeast of Dhaka. 

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