Hasina set to open a southern ‘bridge to dream’

A road journey from Barishal to Kuakata without having to change transport is not a dream anymore. It has been made possible by a bridge on the Payra River in Patuakhali’s Lebukhali.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the 1.5 km long four-lane bridge on Sunday after nine years of construction with the government hoping the bridge will cut the travellers’ sufferings and save time and money.

Project Director Abdul Halim said the areas surrounding the bridge are in a festive mood. “Everyone is looking forward to the inauguration by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.”

After the Payra Bridge opens to the public, people can travel up to Kuakata from Barishal without having to ride a ferry.

In many other districts of the vast southern region, including Barishal, a direct road link to Dhaka will remain a dream, until the Padma Bridge comes on stream.

Halim said the construction of the bridge and the link roads has almost finished, but rains were hampering the beautification.

Chinese contractor Longjian Road and Bridge Company has constructed the bridge, funded by the Bangladesh government and the Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development.

The constructors used extradosed cable-stayed, the same technology used to build Shah Amanat Bridge on the Karnaphuli River in Chattogram, for the Payra Bridge.

The height of the new bridge is 18.3 metres from the river water level. The project director said the bridge will not hamper river traffic.

To keep the water flow normal, only one large pier has been set up in the middle of the river. Cables have been used to keep the bridge up from the main pier and two at both ends.

It has a health monitor that will keep it safe from earthquakes, lightning strikes and other natural calamities. The system will sound alarm automatically if a vehicle with loads beyond the bridge’s limit gets on it.

EXTENSIONS

Initiated nearly a decade ago, the Payra Bridge project’s deadline was extended from five to nine years. The cost also saw a threefold increase.

The initial target was to complete the project by December 2016 with an estimated cost of over Tk 4.13 billion when the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council approved it in May 2012.

Bangladesh signed a deal with the Kuwaiti fund for about Tk 3.4 billion financing.

The government approved a proposal from the Roads and Highways Department to raise the cost to around Tk 4.2 billion in May 2015. The proposal cited a rise in the cost of land acquisition, VAT and IT-related issues.    

The deadline was extended to February 2019 and the cost was raised to about Tk 12.8 billion in June 2017. As the work did not end by this deadline, the project got another extension and the cost was increased to about Tk 15 billion.  

It took until 2016 to change the design and assign the Chinese contractor, said Halim.

Land acquisition and COVID-19 pandemic hampered the construction as well.