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Padma Bridge: Dream becoming a reality against all odds

  • Published at 11:44 pm December 9th, 2020
Padma Bridge
File photo: 3.3km of Padma Bridge visible after installation of the 22nd span Dhaka Tribune

More than 81% of the total construction work has been done and 91% of the construction work of the main bridge is complete, according to project officials

After overcoming numerous setbacks and defying all odds, the Padma Multipurpose Bridge — a dream project for the people of Bangladesh — is progressively inching towards becoming a reality, with its last span scheduled for installation today.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had long ago given the directive for the construction of a bridge over the mighty Padma River during the inauguration of the Bangabandhu Bridge built across the Jamuna River.

Sheikh Hasina later laid the foundation of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project (PMBP) on July 4, 2001. However, once the Awami League lost the election held in October that year, the project could not move forward in a timely manner.

The government in 2007 approved the project at a cost of Tk10,161 crore after completing a feasibility study in 2004. Following the completion of the detailed design of the bridge in 2011, the Awami League-led government finalized discussions with the World Bank, ensuring a loan of $1.2 billion for the bridge.

The biggest blow to the project was dealt in 2012 when the World Bank withdrew its loan.

The bank, in a statement issued on June 29, 2012, said: “The World Bank has credible evidence corroborated by a variety of sources which points to a high-level corruption conspiracy among Bangladeshi government officials, SNC Lavalin (Canada-based implementer) executives, and private individuals in connection with the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project.”

Later, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and the Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) followed suit.

Bangladesh, from the outset, denied the allegations brought by the World Bank, and in 2017, a Canadian court finally acquitted SNC-Lavalin executives of the charge of conspiring to bribe Bangladeshi officials to obtain the Padma Bridge project contract.

Earlier in 2015, the Anti-Corruption Commission of Bangladesh investigated the matter and found no proof to substantiate the World Bank’s claim, but the bank did not find the probe acceptable, citing a lack of transparency.

After the loan was withdrawn, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced that the Padma Bridge project would be implemented by the country’s own funds. She announced in parliament that the construction work of the Padma Bridge would begin in the fiscal year 2012-13.

The main construction of the Padma Multipurpose Bridge began in 2015 with Hasina inaugurating the works of the main bridge and river training. Meanwhile, the construction of service roads and toll plaza began in 2014.

The construction work was again hampered due to strong currents in the river and expert panels of the project had to readjust the piling work.

While the project was progressing in full swing, the Covid-19 pandemic entered the scene this year and dealt it another major blow.

Even so, when works of most development projects were suspended owing to the pandemic, the Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project continued on a limited scale and was progressing slowly but surely.

Now, more than 81% of the total construction work is done and 91% of the construction work of the main bridge is complete, according to project officials.

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