Padma Bridge will remain an engineering marvel of this century as it has been constructed across the most difficult river in the world, experts and engineers said at a seminar in Dhaka.
"Building the bridge was a most difficult task as the Padma River is the third largest in the world after the Amazon and the Nile rivers in terms of flow, but it is the largest in terms of sediment transport," said Sufian A Khondker, a water resource expert and senior vice-president and national technology director of Arcadis, a global design, engineering and management consulting company.
"Moreover, the Padma River is defined as a braided river, which is not straight and its main channel shifts from one bank to the other," he added, presenting his keynote speech, "Padma Bridge Construction: Technical Challenges and Solutions", at the seminar on Saturday.
At the event arranged by the Buet Graduate Club as part of a reception for the project director and the panel of experts involved in the project, the experts and engineers said the project had substantial political, financial, and design challenges.
The tremendous flow of over 148,000 cubic metres of water per second was the main design challenge of the Padma Bridge project, said Sufian A Khondker.
"The length of some piles of the bridge is 122 metres, the highest in the world to combat maximum scour at pier 62. River training work was also a major challenge," he added.
The senior official of the America-based engineering institute identified the bridge as an engineering marvel of this century as its pile foundation is the longest of all known bridges.
The bridge has been designed for the most severe seismic conditions and the piers are designed for the most severe scour conditions, he added.
Chairman of the panel, Professor M Shamim Z Bosunia, said at the event that there were some challenges beyond the technical, like political and financing challenges.
The most important challenge was when the government declared it would build the bridge with its own financing. The tender was opened with a deadline of four years, which was impossible.
Professor Ainun Nishat, a member of the panel, said lessons should be learned from all projects after their completion. Even when a project fails, the reasons for the failure should be analysed to identify the causes of the failure, but there is no such culture in Bangladesh.
Professor M Feroze Ahmed, a member of the panel, said when the authorities were sufficiently ready for protecting from scour, "we had some concerns about river training".
Gulam Muhammed Alamgir, president of the Buet Graduate Club, presented crests to Project Director Md Shafiqul Islam, Chairman of the panel Professor M Shamim Z Bosunia, Professor M Feroze Ahmed, Professor Ainun Nishat, Professors Hossain Md Shahin and Mohammad Awal.
Md Shafiqul Islam said, "Taking charge of the Padma Bridge as project director was an act of bravery for me. The project went through a lot of pressure since the beginning."
He said consultants were paid more to design faster. Soil tests were supposed to be done at all the piers, but it was done on chars and shores.
Later, complications arose as variations were found in soil tests at 22 piers in the main channel. A year and a half in extra time went by for two test pilings.
The people and the media were saying there would be no bridge and the government took a bold decision to carry through with the plan.
Gulam Mahammed Alamgir said, along with BUET graduates, the capacity of the country's contracting institutions and the private sector is increasing.
All the members of the Karnaphuli Tunnel's panel of experts are local. From design to supervision to the construction of Chattogram's elevated expressway, everything is being done by domestic manpower, he added.