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Questions raised over Padma Bridge Construction

Published : 07 Feb 2020 08:39 PM | Updated : 07 Sep 2020 11:18 AM

The government has appointed two consulting firms to evaluate why the cost and completion period of the much-hyped Padma Bridge project has been increasing frequently. Government sources said the two firms, namely, Bashasthan Engineers & Consultants Ltd and IRG Development Services Limited (IRGDSL) have been assigned to evaluate the overall activities and construction works of the Padma Bridge project.

The Padma Bridge, a multipurpose road-rail bridge under construction across the Padma River, will connect the south-west of the country to northern and eastern regions. The project work began in 2007 at an estimated cost of Tk 10,162 crore but the cost has gone up several times and finally stands at Tk 30,193 crore.  A meeting of Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division of Planning Ministry at Sher-E-Bangla Nagar in the city on Wednesday, approved the appointment of the two firms.

The consultancy firms would prepare two separate evaluation reports in the next four months at a cost of Tk 30 lakh. The firms are set to prepare the evaluation report from this month and they will continue till May.

Based on overall activities and latest development, Bashasthan Engineers & Consultants Ltd and IRG Development Services Limited will have a close observation to find out why the cost and completion period of the project has been increasing frequently.

They will examine whether there was any fault in the designs, time lapsed over land acquisition, delay in site clearance and utility shifting and so on. As a number of foreign and local organisations, agents and firms are engaged in the extensive work, the two consulting firms will have to consult with many stakeholders and need sufficient time to get the overall scenario.

“The government wants an overall picture of the update of the progress of Padma Bridge Project,” an official of Planning Ministry said. Besides, he said these two firms will also present a close observation about the delayed disbursement of fund and management glitches which are responsible for increasing project cost and time required for completion.

According to the project factsheet, 85.5 percent construction works of the main Padma Bridge has already been completed so far, while the overall progress of the project is 770 percent. According to the report, 100 percent works of Jajira and Mawa link road and construction of service area-2 have been completed while 66 percent works of river training has also been completed so far.

Currently, a panel of experts, including some BUET teachers, is working to solve the pile and soft soil treatment design issues and a design review is also ongoing. The total progress of the Padma Bridge Project was 77 percent till date. However, river training is lagging behind the estimated figure that is given in the original plan.        

According to the sources, so far Taka 19,873 crore, amounting to 65.83 percent of the total budget, has been spent on the project. Progress of river training is 62 percent so far, while construction of the main infrastructure stands at 85.5 percent.

The Padma Bridge project was scheduled to end on December 30, 2019. Later, the deadline was extended till June 2021. Earlier, total project cost was estimated at Tk 30,193.76 crore. 

The 23rd span of the Bridge was installed on February 2 at the Zazira point in Shariatpur district, making 3,450 meters out of total 6.15kms of the main structure of the bridge visible. And the 24th span of the Padma Bridge will be installed on February 10. With the installation of this span, total 23 spans out of 41 were installed in phases. The rest will be installed by July next

A total of 37 pillars of the main bridge out of 42 have already been completed so far. The remaining five pillars will be constructed in phases.   On the other hand, the government provided a loan of Taka 29,893 crore to Bangladesh Bridge Authority through the Finance Division to implement the Padma Bridge project.

Once the bridge project is completed, the bridge authority will pay the loan money with one percent interest to the government from its income. As per the loan agreement, the Bangladesh Bridge Authority will start paying loan to the government from fiscal 2021-22.

The time period of paying loan is 35 years. The bridge authority will pay minimum Taka 826 crore to maximum Taka 1,475 crore in every fiscal. According to experts, the national economy is expected to witness 1.2 percent GDP growth rate, while 0.84 percent poverty will be reduced every year after completion of the bridge.

It is expected that plying of vehicles will begin on the Padma Bridge from June 2021.