Thursday, November 30, 2023

Loss of time, loss of money

Bridge Site Protection
Loss of time, loss of money
Delay to cost govt Tk 100cr more
Delay in the Padma Bridge construction is now forcing the government to spend an extra Tk 100 crore to protect an area of the bridge site from river erosion.
The government acquired 76 hectares of low-lying land in Janjira of Shariatpur in 2010 to set up a construction yard there.
It spent Tk 45 crore to dump sand and dirt on the land. But now, thanks to the delays in construction, a large part of the yard has gone into the river Padma.
As the yard continues to lose land, the government is now compelled to spend the money for its protection, which the bridge contractor would have done had the construction started.
Officials of the Padma bridge project said the international firm to be selected for construction of the bridge was supposed to prepare the two construction yards, one at Janjira and the other at Mawa.
The government’s responsibility was just to provide the land.
Protecting the yard is mandatory as it is located at the end of the 6.15km bridge.
“We are in double-trouble now. If we want to save the Janjira construction yard we have to spend the money from our pockets, if not, then the yard will go under water. Then we would have to acquire another land or re-develop this yard from the river. That would be costlier,” said an official of the Bridges Division, the implementing agency of the bridge project.
Meanwhile, the government had spent several crores of taka for protection of the second construction yard at the other end of the proposed bridge in Mawa.
There, the government acquired 58 hectares of land. Geo-bags (bags made of special fabric) were dumped into the water along the bank to protect the yard from river erosion.
However, no such measure was taken to protect the yard in Janjira.
Bridges Division officials claimed that the land for the construction yard in Janjira was about 150 metres away from the bank and there was a very small chance of river erosion affecting it then.
However, severe erosion in 2011 took away more than 150 metres.
During a visit to Janjira of Shariatpur on September 7, it was seen that the construction yard was gradually being devoured by the river.
Kajol, who supervises rehabilitation activities at Janjira, told The Daily Star, “We lost about 50 metres of the yard although river erosion was not as severe as it had been last year. We must do something to protect it.”
He said the area would have been buzzing with hundreds of workers and sounds of heavy machinery had the construction work of the bridge started.
Project Director of the Padma Bridge project Shafiqul Islam said they were going to appoint two local companies who would put concrete slabs and establish an embankment to save the yard.
“We will implement the project in two packages, each having Tk 50 crore,” he told The Daily Star, adding that they had no way but to spend the money to save the yard.
The government has so far spent Tk 1,500 crore for preparing design of the Padma bridge, land acquisition, compensation to and rehabilitation and resettlement of the affected people in Mawa and Janjira.
Several lakhs are being spent every month to pay for the project’s officials and employees and fuel for their vehicles.
A cross-section of people in Janjira asked The Daily Star correspondent repeatedly about the fate of the bridge. They asked whether the bridge would eventually be built and when would the construction work start.
They also wanted to know about the corruption allegations regarding the project and who were involved.
Many said the government should have resolved the issue quickly considering the importance of the project and win the hearts of millions.
“We can’t just accept the bridge will not be built due to irregularities and corruption,” said Bachchu Mia, a resident of Purbo Naoduba, Janjira. He said millions in this region had dreamt of the bridge but were now losing hope.
The Padma bridge project, the largest infrastructure development initiative of the government, remained uncertain since September last year when the World Bank suspended its $1.2 billion loan following corruption allegations.
However, the WB formally decided to revive its loan deal yesterday following satisfactory measures taken by the government.

Courtesy of The Daily Star

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