It was foggy all throughout the day, and all boats were moving carefully in the mighty Padma.
The China Major Bridge Engineering Company (MBEC), the contractor for the Padma Multipurpose Bridge, had planned and prepared accordingly to carry the last span closer to pillars 12 and 13 before noon. But, it could not proceed on the plan.
At around 5:10pm, a floating crane started for the bridge, taking the span from the construction yard at Mawa's Kumarbhog and was supposed to reach there by the night. The authorities concerned are moving ahead with a plan to install it on Thursday morning, subject to favourable weather.
With this development, the installation of all the 41 spans of the dream Padma Bridge will be completed, making the entire 6.15km bridge from Munshiganj's Mawa to Shariatpur's Zajira visible.
Dewan Md Abdul Quader, executive engineer of the main bridge project, told The Business Standard (TBS) the crane was scheduled to leave with the span on Wednesday noon. But due to some technical problems, it started from Mawa construction yard at around 5pm.
"We will try to install it tomorrow (Thursday) morning. If there is a lot of fog, we will start working after the situation improves."
According to Padma Bridge project sources, the work of installing the last span may be a bit difficult due to dense fog. It is being taken to the pillars beforehand so that it can be installed easily.
Project people said there will be no big problem in installing it even if there is fog around as the bridge pillars are not too far from the Kumarbhog construction yard.
The Padma Bridge became visible on 30 September 2017 with the installation of the first span on pillars 37 and 38. After 38 months, the work of installing all the spans is going to be completed.
The Bridges Division had chalked out several plans to celebrate the moment of laying the last span but cancelled all programmes due to the Covid-19 situation.
Project sources said foreign consultants do not want the presence of too many people in the project area during the span installation amid the pandemic. Because most of the senior members of the consulting team and top engineers of the contractors are elderly.
The workers of the project also do not have the opportunity to move out of the area. And there are restrictions on anyone entering the site from outside.
The bridge's toll plaza, connecting road and other structures have fallen in Shibchar of Madaripur, involving three districts with the Padma Bridge. The bridge's length on the river body is 6.15km, being joined with 41 spans – each 150 metres long - on 42 pillars.
The two-storey metal and concrete bridge will offer road transports to ply on the upper floor and trains on the lower.
There will be 2,917 roadway slabs for road transports and 2,959 railway slabs for trains. Of these, 1,239 road slabs and 1,860 railway slabs have been installed as of 30 November.
In addition, a 4-kilometre viaduct on both sides of the bridge has already been constructed and it includes no steel span.
However, the project will not be completed by the stipulated schedule - June next year – even if the installation of the last span is completed, said Md Shafiqul Islam, director of the project.
The bridge work may be completed by 2022 as the work has been delayed due to the pandemic, he reckoned.
But, the government wants to open the bridge for road transports on 16 December next year – the Victory Day. It also wants to open it for rail communication from Faridpur's Bhanga to Mawa on the same day.
Stakeholders said, apart from installing spans, other works on the bridge are also underway. So far, the overall progress of the bridge project is 81%, with the main bridge progress standing at 90% and river governance 75%.
Meanwhile, the Padma Bridge construction began in December 2014 with the government's own funding after a tug-of-war with the donors.
In 2007, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved the Padma Bridge construction project at a cost of Tk10,162 crore.
The bridge was earlier slated to be commissioned by 2013. Later, the project expenditure was revised up thrice to Tk20,507 crore in 2011, Tk28,793 crore in 2016 and Tk30,193 crore in 2018. As a result, the project cost has almost tripled.
The World Bank pledged $1,200 million, ADB $615 million, Jica $415 million and IDB $140 million for the $2.9 billion Padma Bridge project to bring the people of 19 south-western districts under better connectivity.
However, the World Bank decided to refrain from financing the project over allegations of corruption plots. Other donors followed the footsteps of the World Bank.
However, rejecting allegations of corruption, the government decided to build the bridge with its own funds.
At one stage, the allegations of corruption proved unfounded in a Canadian court. An investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh also did not find evidence of corruption in the project.