The mega dream project – Padma Multipurpose Bridge – is just 150 metres away from the accentuation of its entire structure.
With the installation of the 41st span of 150-metre length, the entire frame of the 6.15-kilometre bridge will be noticeable in the next week.
The 40th span was installed on Friday, which lengthened 6 kilometres of the mega structure.
Padma Bridge Executive Engineer Dewan Abdur Quader said the span was placed near pillar no. 11 and 12 on Thursday and installed successfully on Friday at 10:58am.
He added that the 41st span will be set up before the upcoming Victory Day and the whole framework of the dream bridge will be visible.
The last span is ready at Mawa construction yard, he continued.
Minister for Road Transport and Bridges Obaidul Quader on Friday said, "There is only one span left to install. I hope it will be done within 10 December. "
According to project officials, a number of four spans were installed each in October and November.
The 40th span was installed 7 days after the installation of the 39th span.
Even though the work of span installation is in the final stage, the work of the entire project will not be completed by June next year, said Project Director Md Shafiqul Islam.
He also noted that the work of the bridge might stretch well into the year of 2022 due to delay caused by the pandemic.
Project stakeholders said apart from span placement, other associated works are also underway.
So far, the overall progress of the bridge project is 81%. Of this, 90% of the main bridge work has already been completed.
Work on Service Area-2 and Jazira connecting road has already been done and 75% of the river management work has also been completed.
The two-storey bridge of metal and concrete structure will allow cars to run on the upper floor and trains on the lower floor.
There will be 2,917 roadway slabs for roads and 2,959 railway slabs for trains.
Of these, 1,239 road slabs and 1,860 rail slabs have been installed as per information till 30 November.
The construction work on the Padma Bridge started in December 2014 with the government's own funding after a tussle with donors.
The bridge became visible on 30 September 2016 with the installation of the first span on pillars no. 36 and 37.
China Major Bridge Engineering Company (MBEC) – a Chinese contractor – is working on the construction of the main bridge while SinoHydro Corporation – another Chinese company – is working on river management.
When the work will end
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 supposed to be commissioned by 2013 at the time of design. In 2011, the expenditure was increased to Tk20,507 crore.
The cost of the project was raised to Tk28,793 crore in 2016 through a second amendment and to Tk30,193 crore in 2018. Thus, the project expenditure has tripled.
According to sources, the Planning Commission has extended the project till June next year on the condition of not sending any amendment proposal.
However, the work will not be completed by that time, said Project Director Shafiqul Islam.
Shafiqul told The Business Standard that work on the bridge has been delayed due to the coronavirus.
Although all span installations were supposed to be completed within last June, it was not possible due to the pandemic, and so, it will be impossible to finish everything within the next June, said the project director.
Asked about the commissioning date of the bridge, Shafiqul added that the bridge authorities have not announced any date, however, they have been informed that the work of the bridge will not be completed next year.
Controversy from the beginning
In order to ensure better connectivity for people in 19 districts in the southwestern region of the country, the government took up the $2.9 billion mega bridge project to which the World Bank pledged $1,200 million, ADB $615 million, Jica$415 million and IDB $140 million credit.
However, the World Bank decided to refrain from financing the project due to allegations of corruption. Other donors also followed suit.
But, rejecting the allegations of corruption, Bangladesh decided to build the bridge with its own funds.
At one point, allegations of corruption were proved unfounded in a Canadian court. An investigation by the Anti-Corruption Commission in Bangladesh also found no proof of the allegations.
After the start of work, various complexities including design errors, structural complexities of the river bed and a lack of navigability of the river caused the delay in the bridge work.
As the pandemic hit, foreign consultants and skilled workers left the project area, thus creating a bar to the desired progress of the dream project.