Padma eats up bridge-making equipment

At least 192 railway stingers and 220 roadway decks, supposed to be used for construction of Padma Bridge, fell into the Padma in between 2:00pm and 8:00pm on Friday as erosion hit a part of the bridge project's construction yard.

Experts, however, said the erosion will not affect the main Padma bridge site as it occurred in Kumarbhog area of Munshiganj's Louhajang upazila, nearly two kilometres off the bridge site.

Speaking to The Daily Star yesterday, Bridges Division Secretary Belayet Hossain said no erosion was reported after July 31.

He along with Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam, also the immediate past Bridges Division secretary, and some experts has already visited the erosion site.

Replying to a question, he said, "No damage was done to the main structure of the Padma Bridge due to the erosion."

He said as the construction yard is situated outside the river training area of the Padma Bridge project, the Water Development Board will take up a separate project to protect the areas vulnerable to erosion.

Asked about losses caused by erosion, Belayet said the contractor primarily estimated the losses at around Tk 90 crore.

"However, the losses will be less if the railway stingers can be salvaged as expected by the project authorities."

Speaking about the recovery of the roadway decks and railway stingers, an independent expert said most of those are too heavy to be swept away by river currents.

"The decks and stingers are likely to be piled up on the riverbed near the erosion site. Those will be covered with sediment. It is possible to salvage those from the riverbed by using cranes. The salvaged decks and stingers can be used in the bridge if those do not lose strength," he said.

An official of the Padma Bridge project said the government will conduct a survey on more than 20 km area on both sides of the bridge site to predict the possibility of any further erosion of the river bank.

The survey may begin next week, the official added.

The Padma had devoured a part of the construction yard in August and September in 2015 when erosion hit the area.

Construction of the Padma Bridge started in November 2014 to connect the country's southwestern region with the capital through road and rail links.

The current deadline of the project is June 2021. The project cost rose to Tk 30,193 crore following several revisions of the deadline.

According to the road transport and bridges ministry, the current deadline is going to be deferred further due to the Covid-19 pandemic. The overall progress of the project was around 80 percent till June this year.

Once opened, the 6.15km-long bridge will connect the capital with 21 southern districts. It is expected to boost the country's gross domestic product by 1.2 percent. 

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