Construction of the main part of the Padma multi-purpose bridge will not begin before March 2012, as completion of procedures necessary to build the main bridge section would take a few more months, sources in the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) said on Tuesday. The deadline announced by the government to start constructing the main section of the bridge has already been deferred several times due to various reasons, including delay in the tender procedure and signing agreements with lending agencies. Although in 2010 communications minister Syed Abul Hossain had vowed to begin the construction last December and promised to finish the work by 2013, the deadline was altered to March 2011. Finally, it has been put off to March 2012.
“We hope to start the construction of the main bridge section by next March (2012),” said BBA executive director Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, who is also the secretary of the bridge division.
He said the lead lending agency, World Bank (WB), has already issued clearance on a list of prequalified contractors for the main bridge construction, while the final bid documents were sent to the WB for technical examination.
“The WB is likely to approve the bid documents within a week. Accordingly, we hope that we can distribute work among the selected bidders,” Bhuiyan said.
He said all financing agreements have been signed and there is no further difficulty in releasing funds by lending agencies.
The government has already signed deals of USD 1.2 billion with the WB, USD 615 million with the Asian Development Bank, USD 400 million with the Japan International Cooperation Agency and USD 140 million with the Islamic Development Bank to arrange funds for the USD 2.9 billion Padma multi-purpose bridge project.
“Release of funds will begin after awarding work to contractors and starting field work,” he said.
The process for final selection of contractors for the river training work is in progress. As per suggestions from the WB, a team of two experts flew to Hong Kong on Tuesday night to assess the strength of two China-based bidders in this regard. “The experts’ team comprises the superintendent engineer of the BBA, Quazi Muhammad Ferdous, and the vice-chancellor of Ahsanullah University of Science & Technology, Prof. AMM Safiullah. They will be back on August 23. It might be possible to start the river training work in a month after their homecoming.”
He further said that the BBA is trying its best to make progress in all construction work, including the approach road construction, It is also trying to rehabilitate the people affected due to acquisition of land surrounding the bridge.
He said the BBA is working to fix the toll rates, which are now being evaluated by the Prime Minister’s Office. Also, the BBA is negotiating with the finance ministry regarding the signing of subsidiary loan agreement at zero rate of interest.
This bridge will be the longest bridge of Bangladesh, stretching 6.15 km in length, including the total 3.68 km approach of the river Padma. It will connect 19 districts of the south-western region of the country with the eastern part through the capital and the bridge will be linked with the Asian highway.
The construction work is expected to be completed by 2015.