Coronavirus crisis drags down Padma Bridge work. Again

  • Senior Correspondent,
    Published: 2021-05-16 00:44:22 BdST

The authorities have completed the main structure of the Padma Bridge after softening the early blow of the coronavirus crisis, but a second wave of infections has slowed down the work again.

Strict restrictions to curb the outbreak have affected timely shipping of goods needed for the project and transportation of experts from abroad, consequently the mega construction work.

People related to the project are still hopeful that they will be able to open the dream bridge, the largest infrastructure of the country, to the public by June 2022.

As much as 93.25 percent of the work to construct the main structure of the bridge was completed until April this year, with the entire project’s progress being at 85.5 percent, according to Project Director Shafiqul Islam. 

The project had nearly 4,000 workers in the beginning of 2020. After the Chinese workers left at the onset of the pandemic, the number dropped, but around 1,500 were still working on a limited scale in March last year.

The work resumed in full swing by the end of the year after things got better, with the final span on the main structure installed on Dec 10, much to the delight of people from mostly southern districts who will directly benefit from the bridge drastically reducing travel time.

The 6.15-kilometre main structure is fully visible now. It will connect 21 southern districts with Dhaka.

Now slabs on the two-storey bridge -- the lower floor for trains and the upper one for vehicles -- are being installed. Covering the road surface with pitch, setting up lamp posts, utility lines and some other tasks are still to be done.

Shafiqul said they have taken all measures needed to finish the work in 2022.

“It hasn’t been possible to regain the pace lost to the pandemic. It's taking time,” he said.

Goods from abroad need two to three months of delivery time now, according to him. It was one month before the pandemic began.

Foreign experts, especially Chinese ones, have to spend 15-20 days in quarantine when they return home now. It is delaying the work as well.

Obaidul Quader, the road transport and bridges minister, expects the project to finish within the time next year. 

He said at a recent programme that he hopes the concrete will be cast, the roads laid out and the slabs for the railway installed by this time.

Shafiqul also said he hopes they will meet the deadline, saying infections barely hit the project. Less than 10 out of around 5,000 workers caught COVID-19 in a year, according to him.

The construction of the Padma Bridge began in December 2014, with the installation of the first span on the piers 37 and 38, bringing the structure into view in September 2016.

The main bridge is being built by China Major Bridge Engineering Company (MBEC), a Chinese contractor, while Sino Hydro Corporation, another Chinese company, is managing the river.