Anwar Hossain
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina led Awami League government’s one of the major achievements is undertaking the massive construction project “Padma Multipurpose Bridge.” At 6.15km (3.8 miles) in length, the Padma Bridge will be a landmark structure and one of the longest river crossings in the world.
It was a very tough challenge for Sheikh Hasina’s government to begin the construction work as the World Bank withdrew its $1.2 billion loan in 2012 over allegations of corruption conspiracies. The government, in response to the false allegation, decided to build the bridge with its own funds.
Apart from the World Bank, Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP) had also plotted to foil the implementation of the mega project. But all out evil designs of the conspirators went in vain due to Sheikh Hasina’s strong determination of going for it with own fund. The bridge will fulfill the long-cherished dream of the southwestern people of the country as construction work of the bridge is going on in full swing.
The Bridge will have a multipurpose road-rail link across the Padma River which will connect Louhajong, Munshiganj, Shariatpur and Madaripur, linking the south-west of the country with northern and eastern regions.
After installation of first span on October 6 in 2016, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina was in USA and had expressed her feelings saying “We received a message around 3am US time that the span has been installed. I sought a picture. My sister and I cried after seeing the picture. We have given answers to many insults.”
Project engineers said the last span they installed was in June 2018. But at present eight new pillars are ready where new spans can be installed, but engineers are waiting because of navigability crisis.
Project officials hope they will be able to install the sixth pillar at the beginning of January 2019. Soon one kilometer of the Padma Bridge will become visible with the installation of the sixth span in January next. Last span on the bridge was installed on pillar 41 and 42 at Jazira point on June 29 this year.
The bridge work at the moment has slowed down due to poor navigability in the river. Hence, the project engineers are continuing dredging work to make a way for the crane-carrying spans to the pillars after the fifth span.
Padma Multipurpose Bridge project director Shafiqul Islam said, “We will try to install another span at the end of this month or beginning of next month.
Till now country’s much hyped mega project Padma Bridge has made overall 71 percent progress while installation of railway box and slab is also continuing.
According to a railway source, it has become known that the rail slab installation has already started on the lower part of spans. “Till now more than 80 slabs have already been posted, over which railway tracks will be installed. And, the Padma rail link will be visible soon.”
There are 10 spans ready at the bridge yard but these cannot be installed as certain pillars for these spans are yet to be constructed. On the other hand, eight pillars are ready but their spans are yet to reach Mawa from China. Officials said if they can combine these work, it would be possible to install more than 10 spans within the next few months. Thus, the bridge will be more visible by March next year (2019), they hoped.
It is worth mentioning that Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Padma Bridge Rail Link project construction work on October 14 this year.
The project cost has been estimated at almost Tk 35,000 crore, and of the total amount, Chinese government will provide Tk 24,749 crore and Bangladesh government will provide Tk 10,240 crore. China Railway Group Ltd., appointed by Chinese Government will implement the project.
The work of Padma Multipurpose Bridge became visible with the installation of 150-metre first span on the pillars no 37 and 38 on October 30, 2017. Later, the 2nd, 3rd and 4th spans were installed on the pillars no 38-39, 39-40, and 40-41 respectively this year.
The multipurpose bridge also has many utilities built into it, including a gas pipeline, telecommunications and a high-voltage power transmission line. Additionally, it has emergency access points in order to facilitate evacuation of a train on the lower deck.
The construction work of the country’s largest bridge, based on the first revision in 2011, was scheduled to be completed in 2015. Later, the deadline was extended to 2018. But Road, Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader has expressed uncertainty on September 9 this year over completion of the bridge work as pre schedule time.
He said, the river is restless, even if everything is ready there is still doubt about timely completion of construction of the bridge.
As per the last revision in January 2016, the total project cost was estimated at Tk 28,793 crore. The government in June this year approved additional Tk 1,400 crore for the project taking the total project cost to Tk 30,193 crore.
A total of 41 spans, each 150 metres long, will be installed on 42 concrete pillars of the 6.15-km bridge.
Once the bridge becomes operational, it will help create employment opportunities for 30 million people of the south western region, adding 1.2 percent to the country’s GDP growth.
The region will become the country’s biggest economic zone, provided that the zone receives the gas supply it needs.
It will bring a dramatic change in the life of the poor people of the region within the next ten years.
The bridge will also facilitate regional trade, and promote industrial and commercial activities.
Apart from connecting the country’s southern region with the west, the bridge will also function as part of the proposed Asian Highway route.
Chinese, American, British, Indian, and Japanese nationals along with Bangladeshis are working round the clock on the project in order to complete the project as early as possible.
On completion, the bridge will have a four-lane highway on the upper level for motor vehicles and a single track railway on the lower level.