Connecting Regions of Asia.

Padma Bridge Blues

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Bangladesh authorities are facing  major  delays and a  cost escalation issue in the construction of the 6.1 kilometre long major new Padma  River bridge,  the country’s most  prestigious project, owing to  problems   in piling work,  controlling fluctuating currents, erosion and the current Corona pandemic. The inauguration of the  long awaited bridge which will raise connectivity between Bangladesh and  neighbouring countries to a new level,  is planned for June 2022,  at least four years behind  schedule.
Naturally there is much criticism of the planning and  preliminary  construction work  being carried out by the two Chinese companies. The critically important railway linkage work on the bridge, the laying of lines etc is being done  by the Chinese Railway group ltd. All other work relating to the  construction of the steel structure on the river, putting up 42 pillars, 41 spans and  controlling the river flow is being handled by the Sinohydro group of China.   
What hurts Bangladesh authorities is the cost escalation factor, as neither company will be held accountable for the slowdowns , according to the terms worked out  officially. Before the project got under way,  experts had warned of the complexities involved in carrying out such a massive project over the mighty Padma river. It appears many of their fears are coming true.
The project  may  well end up costing the country around taka 40,000 crore  now,  up from tk 10,000 crore when it was  approved back    in 2007. It was estimated that the work would be completed by 2013, at the time.
Since then, there have been several changes in the plans, as adjustments  have had to be made  as  problems   relating to the fluctuating currents, land erosion, recurrent floods and other matters  had to be addressed. There were issues relating to the plans made for piling as well. All this involved  constant  re-adjustments of original estimates, calculations  and  work schedules.
Under existing terms, the Government is liable to meet the rising costs, as neither the companies concerned, nor the contractors executing the work  can be held accountable for the delays. The apparent lack of co-ordination has most observers worried. 
Estimated costs have sky rocketed  from tk 20507 crore , with 2018 as the year of completion, to  tk 34987 crore. The costs gradually going up  as both companies increased their engagement with the project. 
Current estimates indicate that even if the June 2022 timeline is maintained, the final cost could be more that tk 39247 crore.
However, Minister for Railways,  M Nurul Islam,   is optimistic  that there should no more  major problems  or delays, going forward. 
Admitting that there were and are some issues to be addressed in the  problem areas already identified,  the work would progress smoothly once they had been finally discussed and sorted out.

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