Focus Writing: The Padma Bridge
The Padma Bridge is a multipurpose road-rail bridge across the Padma River, globally known as the Ganges, under construction in Bangladesh.
It will connect Louhajong, Munshiganj to Shariatpur and Madaripur, linking the south-west of the country, to northern and eastern regions. Padma Bridge is the most challenging construction project in the history of Bangladesh.
The two-level steel truss bridge will carry a four-lane highway on the upper level and a single-track railway on a lower level. With 150.12 m (492.5 ft) span, 6.241 km (3.878 mi) total length, and 18.18 m (59.6 ft) width, it is going to be the longest bridge in Bangladesh, the second-longest in the Indo-Gangetic Plain afterBhupen Hazarika Setu in Assam and the longest over the Ganges in terms of both span and the total length.
Padma Bridge, when commissioned, is expected to boost the GDP of Bangladesh by as much as 1.2 percent.
History: The Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) invited the pre-qualification tender for the project in April 2010. Construction of the bridge was expected to commence by early 2011 and be ready for major completion in 2013 (and complete all sections by late 2015).
After an allegation of corruption by some people associated with project preparation, the World Bank withdrew its commitment and other donors followed. The Government of Bangladesh then decided to fund the project from its own fund.
China proposed building the bridge on the build-own-transfer (BOT) basis by investing $2 billion or 70 percent of the project cost. Four companies—China Major Bridge Engineering Company, Daelim-L&T JV, and Samsung C&T Corporation—purchased the tender papers.
But only the Chinese company submitted its financial proposal on 24 April 2014. On 17 June 2014, important progress had been made in the construction of the Padma Bridge.
A construction firm, China Major Bridge Engineering Company Ltd, has been selected to construct the long aspired bridge on the river Padma. The 6.15 km bridge, costing an estimated ৳91.72 billion (US$1.1 billion).
Overview of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project:
Design Team:- The detailed design of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge is being delivered by a team of international and national consultants headed by AECOM.The team comprises AECOM, SMEC International, Northwest Hydraulic Consultants, and ACE Consultants, with additional assistance from Aas-Jakobsen and HR Wallingford.
The Project comprises two phases. Phase 1 of the Project includes the Design Phase leading through procurement action to the award of construction contracts. Phase 2 is the Construction Phase.
Phase 1 of the project commenced on 29 January 2009. A dedicated Project Office was set up in Dhaka in March 2009. A detailed design of the main bridge was carried out in AECOM’s Hong Kong office.
All work carried out by the design team was carried out within the framework of AECOM’s Quality Management System (QMS) which is independently accredited to AS/NZS ISO 9001.
The QMS is designed to control all project work undertaken by the team. A project-specific Design Management Plan was established at the outset of the project, In March 2009, the Government of Bangladesh requested AECOM to accelerate the design with a view to ensuring construction could be completed before the end of 2013.
This necessitated the mobilization of additional personnel within the design team. Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) established an internationally recognized panel of Experts comprising five national and five international experts to review the design at regular intervals.
In addition, an Independent Checking Engineer, Flint & Neill, was engaged to review the design criteria, specification,s, and drawings produced by the design team to ensure the design meets the project requirements and to undertake an independent check of the detailed design of the main bridge and river training works.
A key feature of the detailed design was the integration of Bangladesh counterparts into the design team, which allowed the successful training of a significant number of Bangladesh personnel in all aspects of the project and the subsequent transfer of the high level of technology involved in this large and complex project.
Component of the project :
1. Main Bridge
2. River Training Works(RTW)
3. Janjira Approach Road & Selected Bridge End Facilities
4. Mawa Approach Road & Selected Bridge End Facilities
5. Service Area-2
8. Land Acquisition
9. CSC(Main Bridge & RTW)
10. CSC(Approach Roads & Service Area-2)
11. Engineering Support & Safety Team(ESST)
Padma bridge is under construction: As of October 2020, around 89.25% of the construction of the 6.15-kilometer-long two-tier Padma Multipurpose Bridge has been completed. The China Major Bridge Engineering Corporation (MBEC), which was appointed for the main bridge, will carry out the work.
The soil testing and dredging works have been going on for the last four months for the river training. The bridge will have a total of 42 pillars. Each will have six piles beneath. Steel spans will be placed on the pillars.
The bridge will have a total of 41 spans. Work on the Padma Bridge is broadly divided into five parts—the main bridge, river training, two link roads, and infrastructure (service area) construction.
China’s Sinohydro Corporation was appointed for the river training works while Bangladesh’s Abdul Monem Limited was given the contract for the two link roads and infrastructure construction.
In October 2017, more than one and a half years after the main construction work began, the first span was installed between pillars 37 and 38, indicating timely progress on the project.
As of November 2020, the construction of 42 pillars out of 42 has been completed. A total of 35 spans out of 41 has been installed.
Controversy: From the beginning, the Padma bridge negotiation had been involved in controversy and conspiracy. The World Bank stated that they found, “credible evidence corroborated by a variety of sources which points to a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials, SNC-Lavalin executives, and private individuals in connection with the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project.”
As a result of the alleged corruption, the World Bank initially refused to sanction the proposed loan for constructing the bridge and imposed conditions for the continuation of loan talks with the government.
In accordance with one of these conditions, Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain had to resign, as he was alleged to have been involved in the corruption.
SNC-Lavalin accepted a negotiated resolution agreement where the company and its affiliates were barred from taking part in bidding World Bank contracts for 10 years.
This is particularly significant as one of the four criteria required before the international donor agrees to a negotiated settlement is: “Whether an accused party has admitted culpability”. Some assume that SNC Lavalin had done so.
However, the corruption allegations were subsequently found to be false and without merit and the Canadian Court subsequently dismissed the case. In 2017, controversial former ICC prosecutor Luis Gabriel Moreno Ocampo, came to Dhaka to monitor the progress of the alleged Padma Bridge corruption investigation.
The World Bank sent a panel of three, headed by Ocampo, to review the steps taken by the ACC in the Padma Bridge investigation. As recommended by the panel, the ACC filed a case implicating former Bridges Division secretary Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan and six other high-ranking government officials.
Bhuiyan had to be in jail in the case. However, a Canadian court found “no proof” of bribery conspiracy in the project and acquitted in January three executives of charges that SNC-Lavalin Group Inc staff planned to bribe Bangladesh officials in the Padma Bridge project.
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