The Padma Bridge was inaugurated about five months ago. It is now open to vehicular movement. An average of Tk 20 million is earned from toll every day.

However, the Padma Bridge project is still ongoing. The work of river training is not complete. In this situation, the project cost is going up again by about Tk 25 billion.

At present the cost of Padma Bridge project stands at Tk 301.93 billion. After revision it will soar up to Tk 326.38 billion. That means the cost is going up by Tk 24.45 billion. While approving the project initially in 2007, the cost was estimated at Tk 101.62 billion.

According to the bridges division, the reasons behind the cost going up are additional work, increase of contractor’s income tax and VAT on goods, price hike of dollar, river erosion, shifting of ferry terminal, increase of consultants' remuneration for the work not ending on time, purchase of machineries for the bridge and some changes in the design.

Apart from this, about Tk 890 million has been spent for the inauguration ceremony of Padma Bridge.

The project authority has made a list of reasons for which the project cost needs to be increased. Sources say, most of the additional cost that has been included, has already been spent.

Now it’s just being added officially through project revision. Parts of it will be done in future and the cost of that will be added too before the final revision of the project proposal.  

The time period of Padma Bridge project extends till next June. However, the construction period has ended last June. Now the contractors are being paid while the defect liability period (DLP) is going on for minor repairs.

That (DLP) however is being extended for one more year because of the work of river governance not finishing on time.  In this regard, the bridges division has prepared a revision proposal of the project which will be sent to the planning commission for approval.

Regarding this, bridges division secretary Md Monjur Hossain confirmed receiving the project revision proposal to Prothom Alo. However, he advised on contacting the director of Padma Bridge project for details on this.

Project director Md Shafiqul Islam mentioned how much the cost can go up but didn’t agree on sharing the details.

He told Prothom Alo, there have been some leftover funds in some of the project work while some other works have cost extra. The government has earned a big chunk of the extra cost as VAT and tax, though. It had to be paid because of the law being changed.

Tk 890 millon to inaugurate the bridge

The government decided to celebrate the inauguration of Padma Bridge with people from the whole country. 

For that, the main inauguration ceremony was held nationally at the project area, both on Mawa and Zajira ends. 

Apart from this, there were also different programmes including projection of the opening ceremony on big screen and fireworks in each district. It is the Padma Bridge project that has borne the total cost of this celebration.

Concerned sources have said that about Tk 300 million has been spent on preparation of the venue for inauguration ceremony, decoration and organisation of the ceremony. 

An event management company called Event Touch had organised that. 

In recent times, this company has been noticed organising large-scale  events of the government. 

The event from last Saturday, after completion of a tube from the under-construction Bangabandhu Tunnel under the Karnaphuli River in Chattogram, was also organised by Event Touch. 

Earlier, the inauguration of Dhaka-Ashulia highway construction was done by them as well.

According to the project-related sources, apart from the event management company, most of the remaining money was spent at the district level.

Different amounts were allocated for each of the districts. Most of the districts got an allocation of Tk 1 to 1.5 million.

Madaripur district was given the largest allocation, which was more than Tk 20 million. There was a three-day event organised in that district.

Apart from this, the districts on both sides of the Padma Bridge and Dhaka district had received more allocations relatively.

On the occasion of the Padma Bridge inauguration, supplements were published in the newspapers. This has cost about Tk 20 million.

Besides, there were some other expenses including the publication of commemorative stamps.

Before the inauguration of Padma Bridge, there was a severe flood in the Sylhet region.

The opposition parties including BNP had urged the government to emphasise on helping the flood victims instead of spending huge money on the inauguration of Padma Bridge.

At that time, there was a criticism about the cost of the inauguration ceremony.

On condition of anonymity, an official of the bridges division told Prothom Alo that none of the bridges in Bangladesh has been inaugurated in such a grand manner like the Padma Bridge.

Most of the money was spent on decorations and event management.

Reason behind three large expenditures

Sources from the bridges division have said that the biggest reason behind the increase in expenditure is due to the rise in VAT and tax by the government. Foreign contractor's VAT and taxes are paid from the project fund.

The government has increased the VAT on goods purchased by foreign contractors and tax on their income by 4.5 per cent. In consequence, the project cost has increased by Tk 6.87 billion.

It was Chinese contractors who build the actual bridge and did the river governance work. Most of the materials used, were from China.

The payments of the contractors, consultants and purchase of foreign materials had to be paid in dollars. When the Padma Bridge construction began towards the end of 2014, the dollar price was a little over Tk 78.

South Korean Korea Expressway Corporation is supervising the construction work. Almost all of their consultants are foreigners. The consulting firm was appointed in November 2014.

Assuming that the work will be completed by 2018, their tenure was extended up to November 2019.

But, since the work didn’t finish on time, the consulting firm still has to be kept under employment. And, the cost is going up by almost Tk 5.75 billion for this.

A 400-KV power line is going downstream of Padma Bridge. Its foundation is being built from the Padma Bridge project. In addition to the initially calculated cost of the work, about Tk 4 billion more had to be spent on this.

Now when the Padma Bridge has been inaugurated, various devices are being installed on the bridge, optical fibre cables are being installed, roads on both sides of the bridge are being expanded, a bus bay is being constructed near the toll plaza and separate lanes are being made for trucks. All of these works are being done from the project and this will increase the cost by around Tk 2.15.

For river governance, geo bags weighing 800 kg have been dropped into the river. As claimed by the project authority, size of the geo bags that were supposed to be dropped initially had to be increased later. About Tk 1.3 billion had to be spent additionally on this.

Museum with contractor’s equipment

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina had instructed on making a museum with the machineries used in the construction of Padma Bridge. The bridges division then decided to purchase some of the equipment from the contractors to display in the museum.

The list of equipment includes the contractors’ camp office, buildings from where the steel spans were assembled and painting factory for the spans. In exchange of keeping those about Tk 700 million has to be paid to the contractors.

On condition of anonymity, a reliable official from the bridges division told Prothom Alo that contractors sell the left over materials as scrapes. Probably this might be the first time that the government is wishing to buy the left over materials.

Huge expenditure on keeping ferries running

The ferry terminals had to be shifted to Mawa and Kathalbari for the Padma Bridge construction project. The dockyard at Mawa was in the face of erosion. That too had to be repaired. About Tk 3.5 billion from the bridge project had to be spent on these.

The dredgers of Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) conduct regular dredging activities to keep ferry running on the Shimulia-Majhikandi route. Apart from this, dredging was done from the Padma Bridge project, alongside dumping geo bag-stones on the river bed.

Plus, vessels were purchased to do a survey in the river. In total, more than Tk 600 million has been spent on these. Yet, during the construction work, ferry service often remained closed.

According to the project authorities, the flood in 2015 had created a landslide under the bottom of the river which resulted in a giant hole. The same thing was repeated in 2017, 2019 and 2021. An additional amount of about Tk 1 billion went into filling the hole.

Besides, two temporary hospitals were built on both banks of the river during the Covid outbreak. About Tk 40 million was spent on that. Officials of the bridges division said the cost is not that high compared to the sort of safety provided during corona.

While setting up the piles of the bridge, soft soil was found under the surface layer. For this the depth of the piles had to be increased by revising the design. This cost about Tk 500 million extra.

Besides, a portion of the Padma Bridge construction yard in Mawa got washed away during the flood of 2020. At the time, 126 concrete slabs and 192 railway slabs (stringer), constructed for the bridge floated away with the tide.

Those had to be constructed again latter, which has been added to the total cost.

Besides, additional costs have been included for the construction of smaller infrastructure as well as design and verification of the Padma Bridge Museum, which are now being added to the final revision.

Ainun Nishat, a member of the Padma Bridge project expert committee, told Prothom Alo that there are various types of expenses in the mega projects which cannot be predicted in advance. The project is still ongoing.

Technical complications arose in the midway. The cost could easily increase because of this. But it is the responsibility of the government to ensure that each of the expenditure is justified, he added.

* This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Nourin Ahmed Monisha