Padma Bridge now a reality25 June 2022
Md. Arafat Rahman :
The construction of 'Padma Multipurpose Bridge', a socio-economic development project on the river Padma, was supposed to start in 2011 under the design of AECOM. The original project was planned by the former caretaker government in 2007. At that time the much talked Padma Bridge project worth 10 thousand 161 crore taka was passed. Later, the Awami League government came and connected the railways and on January 11, 2011 revised the cost of the bridge in the first phase. Then the cost was estimated 20 thousand 507 crore taka.
Later, due to the complex work of river control and piling, the cost of Padma Bridge was increased by another Tk 8,000 crore. As a result, the total cost of the Padma Bridge stands Tk. 30,193.39 crore. Bangladesh Bridge Authority called for pre-qualification tenders for the project in April 2010. According to the first plan, construction of the bridge was scheduled to begin in early 2011 and major works were to be completed by 2013. The project covers three districts - Munshiganj (Mawa Point / North Bank), Shariatpur and Madaripur (Janjira / South Bank). The total land required and acquired for this is 918 hectares.
A team of international and national consultants was formed under the leadership of AECOM to complete the design of the Bridge. Professor Dr. Jamilur Reza Chowdhury was appointed chairman of the 11-member expert panel. The panel provided advice to project officers, design consultants and development partners on the design and implementation of the bridge. The physical work of the Padma Bridge was basically divided into five packages. Namely: (a) Main Bridge, (b) River Governance, (c) Road connecting with Jazira, (d) Toll Plaza and (e) Mawa and Jajira Service Area.
Maunsell-AECOM, a design consulting firm engaged in the project, was responsible for preparing the pre-qualification rate documents for the physical work contractor, evaluating the tender documents after inviting tenders, and assisting the tender committee in all related works. An international panel of experts was engaged in overseeing the work of the design consulting firm.
At first, the bridge construction engineers and experts had to find the soil at the bottom of the river Padma. Normal soil was not found at the bottom. Problems were seen after the piling work of the bridge started. Engineers tried to build pillars by creating new soils instead of artificial ones at the bottom of the river. The Padma Bridge was built in this manner called screen grouting.
In this process, the strength of the soil has been increased by sending chemicals to the bottom of the river through holes in the pipes from above. Then pillars have been built on that ground. This is the first such application in Bangladesh. In this method small steel pipes are welded with piles. A type of chemical is sent through the pipe to the soil at the bottom of the river. Under the influence of chemicals, the soil at the bottom becomes hard. At one stage, that soil becomes able to carry the load of the pile. Then there is no obstacle to put the pile.
The total cost for the construction of Padma bridge include construction of bridge infrastructure, river control, connecting roads, land acquisition, rehabilitation and environment, salaries and allowances, etc. According to the agreement of the bridge department with the finance department of Bangladesh, the government has given a loan of Tk 29,893 crore for the construction of the bridge. The bridge authority will pay with 1 percent interest within 35 years.
On September 30, 2017, the first span was placed on the pillars of the Padma Bridge. The span was installed with the help of floating cranes on pillars 37 and 38 at Jajira end of Shariatpur. On December 10, 2020, the entire Padma Bridge became visible by placing the 41st span on the 12th and 13th pillars of the Bridge. The last road slab was laid on 23 August 2021.
By June 2022, work on the 6.15 km long Padma Multipurpose Bridge is almost complete. Soil testing and dredging work had been going on for four months. The bridge has a total of 42 pillars. There are six piles under each pillar. Steel spans have been placed on the pillars. China's Sinohydro Corporation was hired and Abdul Monem Limited of Bangladesh got the contract to build two connecting roads and infrastructure.
The Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project has made a direct connection with the south-western part of the country through the Mawa-Jajira Point through a specific route. This bridge will significantly contribute to the social, economic and industrial development of the relatively underdeveloped region of Bangladesh.
The project will directly benefit more than 30 million people in a total area of about 44,000 sq km or 29 per cent of the total area of Bangladesh. As a result, the project is being considered as a very important infrastructure for the country's transport network and regional economic development. The bridge has rail, gas, power lines and fiber optic cable expansion facilities. If this bridge is implemented, the country's GDP will increase up to 1.2 percent.
(Md. Arafat Rahman is Asst. Officer, Career & Professional Development Services Department, Southeast University).