The total progress in the Padma Bridge Project was 73 percent till August this year. However, river training is lagging behind the estimated figure that was given for it in the plan.
So far Tk19,873 crore, amounting to 65.83 percent of the total budget, has been spent on the project. Progress on river training is 62 percent so far, while construction of the main infrastructure stands at 83 percent.
This information was revealed by sources at the Bridges Division and the Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division (IMED).
So far 31 piers out of the total of 42 have been constructed till August this year. The installation of 14 spans make 2.1 kilometers of the mega-project visible. The 15.15-kilometer-long bridge was scheduled to be opened in December 2019.
However, the Bridges Division has proposed extending the project time because they estimate that the mega bridge will not be completed this year. The proposal has been sent to the Planning Commission seeking a time extension of one and a half years — till June of 2021.
The Planning Commission will soon give the final decision about extension, while the project cost will remain the same.
The Padma Bridge project began in 2007 at an estimated cost of Tk 10,162 crore. The project cost went up several times and finally stood at Tk 30,193 crore.
Construction of the Mawa-Zajira link road, development of the service area and the land development has been completed. Rehabilitation of the people affected by land acquisition is yet to be completed.
Ninety percent of the rehabilitation was completed by August this year.
Meanwhile, the IMED said that river training and construction of the main infrastructure are running late. It also said the construction of pier pile caps and pier shafts should be prioritised.
The Implementation Monitoring and Evaluation Division published the report on Tuesday after a recent inspection of the project area.
Contrary to expectations, IMED alleged that it did not find the areas vastly abuzz as it was supposed to be after the government had fast-tracked the project. In the report, the IMED suggested increasing manpower for piling, pier construction and river training.
Moreover, the evaluation division suggested working "24 hours a day, 7 days a week".
Despite the setbacks, the director general of IMED, Md Kamruzzaman, told The Business Standard that they are optimistic about the project being completed on time.
"It is just a matter of time now. There are no major issues over this mega-project," he added.
The proposal of the Bridges Division to the Planning Commission also explains why it needs a further time extension of one and a half years.
The Bridges Division said that they had to redesign 22 piles because of the disparity in data obtained during the geotechnical investigation and the construction phase. They had to halt piling work on eight piers for the same reason.
According to the proposal, although the redesigning of piles has been completed, contractors cannot continue work due to the delay in issuing the designs.
Moreover, strong currents in 2015 delayed the construction because work on tackling the erosion had to continue for a further six months. Besides, the contractor tasked with river training at Jajira point could not completed the work on time, prompting a one and half year delay.
The government wants to hype-up celebrations of the golden anniversary of Bangladesh's independence by opening the Padma Bridge for vehicles at that time, and the authorities responsible for this project have been notified accordingly.