The cost of installing LED streetlights in different city streets has taken a puzzling turn in seven years. The prices of the bulbs being installed by several local government bodies are going up steeply even though LED prices are declining globally.
Each bulb cost Tk64,000 in 2016 when Dhaka South City Corporation started a project that is nearing completion. The cost included the price of bulbs as well as installation cost.
But two years later, Chattogram City Corporation (CCC) quoted Tk1.26 lakh for each bulb, almost double the price DSCC had paid.
The cost then jumped to Tk2.35 lakh in the Chattogram Development Authority's (CDA) proposal early last year. The Planning Commission rejected the proposal as it was not convinced by the justification for the price hike.
But a year later, the CDA set the rate even higher at Tk2.71 lakh per bulb, up from Tk1.26 lakh quoted by CCC in 2018, in a proposal to illuminate other areas of the port city. In the original project back in 2013, the proposed cost was Tk48,000.
The Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) has already cleared the proposal.
Experts have criticised the cost escalation as they point out that LED prices are on the decline globally.
However, CDA officials have a point.
CDA Chief Engineer Kazi Hasan Bin Shams argued that the roads in the hilly areas are kind of secluded.
"Considering this, we prefer high-quality German LED bulbs, tha increased the total cost slightly. These lamps are brighter, energy efficient, and also have lower maintenance costs," he told The Business Standard.
Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology's (Buet) civil engineering Professor Shamsul Hoque said while the price of LED lights is declining globally, the opposite is happening in Bangladesh.
"If anyone opts for powerful lamps on the roads to get more light, it should be understood that he is wrong because you have to use moderately-powered lights on the roads. Over-illumination can cause road accidents," the infrastructure development expert added.
However, there is an exception to the cost escalation story.
Dhaka North City Corporation, which has been installing LED bulbs since 2019, has now proposed installing new bulbs in the ongoing phase that will cost less, down from Tk98,000 to Tk79,500.
These bulbs are also being procured from Europe, but the cost is less than a third of what the CDA will pay.
Dhaka north Mayor Atiqul Islam said, "Bought from Europe, these bulbs come with a 22-year lifespan and the company is also offering a 10-year warranty. They have been tested by Buet as safe for eyes and also environment-friendly."
For a project of the Roads and Highways Department, LED bulbs will cost much higher than the Dhaka north is paying. The department will spend Tk1.33 lakh for each bulb to illuminate Narayanganj six-lane link road from Signboard in Dhaka but those are still less than half the price quoted by CDA.