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Padma bridge sources said there may be difficulty in putting the span in place due to thick fog and that is why span is being taken near the pillar so that it can be easily positioned tomorrow, Thursday. This last span, the 41st, will be placed at the Mawa end, of Munshiganj. The pillars where it will be placed are not far from the Kumarbhog construction ground in Mawa where the span was made. That is why, the project officials feel, there is not likely to be any problem in putting the span in place even if there is fog.

No event due to corona

The bridges department had all sorts of plans lined up to celebrate the historic moment of the last span being put in place, but due to coronavirus all the events have been cancelled. So the span placement will be carried out in a very unpretentious manner on Thursday.

On Friday the minister for road transport and bridges Obaidul Quader will hold a meeting at the Shetu Bhaban to review the progress on the project so far. He will then give his official reaction about the development. He was due to watch the span being put in place through a video call at the Shetu Bhaban, but this was cancelled at the last moment at the directives of prime minister Sheikh Hasina, according to sources.

Project sources said that the foreign consultants do not want the presence of too many people while the span is being placed. The senior members of the consultant team and the top engineers of the consultants are relatively older. They are staying at the project area in almost lockdown conditions. The workers in the project area cannot leave the area and no one can enter from outside. That is why the consultants have advised that all gatherings and crowds be avoided over the span being put in place.

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Work progressing as per plan

The first span of Padma bridge was put in place in 30 September 2017. It took 3 years 2 months to put the remaining 40 spans in place. Ten spans went into place over the past two months. Those involved in the project said that if the bridge is to start operating from next December, all spans are to be placed by this December. So apparently all work is proceeding according to plan.

Work on the project was slowed somewhat due to the coronavirus outbreak and also the floods that had caused excessive current of the river Padma. The entire project went under lockdown to contain the coronavirus transmission. The workers and engineers who had joined work could not leave the project area. Two health centres were set up on either bank of the bridge. The spans, though could not be put in place during the floods, were prepared during that time. After the coronavirus and flood impact was overcome, on 11 October the 32nd span was put in place and the weather turned better. There was no technical hitch either. So the remaining 10 spans could be put in place at a stretch.

Once the bridge is complete, the GDP will grow by 1.23 per cent, according to JICA’s feasibility study. This study was carried out in 2005. The GDP of the southwest region will increase by 2.3 per cent.

The main Padma bridge spans from Mawa in Munshiganj to Jajira in Shariatpur. The bridge’s toll plaza is in Madaripur, along with connecting roads and other installations. So, three districts are involved in Padma bridge. The part of the bridge upon the river is 6.15 km. The bridge is joined together by the 41 spans, each 150 metres long, placed on top of 42 pillars. There is another 4km or so of road on the banks on either side of the bridge. This is the viaduct. This has no steel spans.

From 2001to 2020

Padma bridge has two levels. Vehicles will travel over the steel spans and concrete slabs are being laid for this purpose. Once this is done, pitch will be applied. Once complete, the road for the vehicles will be 22 metres wide and will have four lanes. There will be a divider running down the middle. The trains, both metre gage and broad gage will run between the spans.

Prime minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone of the bridge on 4 July 2001. After detailed study, in 2004 the Japanese aid agency JICA advised that the bridge be constructed at Mawa-Jajira. The expenditure of Padma bridge project, approved by ECNEC in 2007, was Tk 101.62 billion (Tk 10,162 crore). In 2011 the expenditure was hiked to Tk 205.07 billion (Tk 20,507 crore). Revisions in 2016 brought the cost up to Tk 287.93 billion (Tk 28,793 crore). Then without amending the project proposal, in June 2018 the cost was put up again, this time to Tk 301.93 billion (Tk 30,193 crore). The proposal will be amended one more time before the project is completed.

Once the bridge is complete, the GDP will grow by 1.23 per cent, according to JICA’s feasibility study. This study was carried out in 2005. The GDP of the southwest region will increase by 2.3 per cent. Mongla Port and Benapole land port will then have direct road connection with the capital city and also the port city Chattogram.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten for the English edition by Ayesha Kabir

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