Thursday, August 16, 2018 | ePaper

Padma Bridge Project Director's protest

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Project Director of Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project in a rejoinder on June 28 protested some parts of our commentary of June 26 titled: Cost of Padma Bridge has gone up four times: A big opportunity for corruption". The full text of the rejoinder is given bellow:
Bangladesh has the potentiality to execute and establish mega projects with its own technical and financial resources. The Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project is the largest project ever materialized in Bangladesh. More exciting is that such a major and large multi-dimensional project is being implemented by the nation's own resources. The probable estimated cost of the project has been approved after extensive evaluation by the appropriate authority of the government. The reported 'unforeseen and unanticipated cost' is far from truth, baseless and unjustified.
The Padma Multipurpose Bridge is being constructed under the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges. The Senior Secretary of Bridges Division along with the Project Management is responsible for its construction. The project has been approved by the highest authority, Cabinet Committee on Government Purchase (CCGP) back in 2009. On the other hand, 'Padma Bridge Rail Link Project' is being implemented by the Ministry of Railways. This is a foreign aided project which has been approved by the government in 2017 and is entirely different from the Padma Bridge in question. Unfortunately, attempts to correlate Padma Bridge Project with that of the Padma Rail link Project, thereby summing up costs of the two different projects into one unit figure and concluding as a 'big opportunity for corruption' are hopelessly fabricated and untrue.
The comprehensive design of the bridge is robust and aesthetically stunning. The design is accomplished by multiple reputed international agencies which is by far considered as one of the best design in recent period. Nevertheless, to ascertain actual length and required number of piles under each pier, it is the ultimate mission to go through load tests in multiple stages during execution level. It is time consuming and related to numerous indefinite variable parameters. Fixation of pile length is not dependable to any benchmark. Actually there exists no model or standard to solve through prevailing geotechnical engineering technology. The adequacy and load test reports are keenly examined by the panel of experts appointed by the government. The panel comprises of' highly qualified skilled national and international group of experts who have widespread experience in relevant fields. Out of 22, final length of 11 obtained and decision for the rest 11 number of piles would be available after a couple of months. Project is being implemented by the combined working force of highly qualified experts both in national and international level, every expert has skillness and experience in construction of mega projects in home and abroad. Report published about the piles already constructed prompts to misconception and thus could be stated as total ignorance.
· Duration of construction phase affixed during the tendering stage period significantly relates to mobilization, construction of sub and super structures, panel construction procurement and launching, approach road and small bridges construction and river training works. Consequently, the project cannot to accelerate without achieving all those stages of works.
 Government had the commitment to connect the Padma River to establish road and rail communication with the capital. In this consideration - feasibility study and detail survey work started long before in 1996. With the passage of time eventually light at the end of the tunnel is illuminating, thousands and millions of dreams are on the verge of realization.
Our explanation:
At the very outset we want to put on record our appreciation that you have reacted to our assertions in the commentary in a very responsible way from your sense of accountability. Yours is a rare good example, it needs to be made clear, however, that a commentary is written analytically based on newspaper reports and views expressed by credible people on the subject.
In our commentary we hadn't raised any issue or objection regarding the Padma Multipurpose Bridge (PMB) project itself. We just wrote: We are not denying the importance of having the bridge, but at how much more cost? In your letter you have highlighted the line:  But according to local media reports, it could even be 39, 246.80 crore - a staggering four times figure.
The project cost, when it was first estimated during the then caretaker government in 2007 was Tk 10,162 crore (Daily Star) and now it has stood at Tk39,246.80 crore (Dhaka Tribune May 23, 2018). You would surely agree that the figure now stands approximately 4 times higher. Additionally, intellectual and former Civil Servant Akbar Ali Khan reiterated the same anxiety about cost going up  on a TV talk show recently.
You have further highlighted on your rejoinder :  for the Padma Bridge Rail Link Project, adding Tk4, 257.94 crore to the total project cost of Tk34, 988.86 crore.
Needs be mentioned with a simple example, when you procure a three piece suit, you don't pay separately for the trouser, waistcoat and the blazer - you pay for an entire package. Similarly, the cost of an additional Tk4, 257.94 for the Rail link project has been added in the Padma Bridge package cost - the cost comes with the existence of the bridge and vice-versa.
It's rather convenient to anticipate that the cost will get even higher if the project management authority includes utility (GAS, ELECTYRTICTY AND WATER) supply links and pipes with the existing options.
In the last paragraph of our commentary you have highlighted the line - Waste of public money for inefficiency or corruption has no limits, because the government has no accountability and government feels to galore as big success for political propaganda. Luckily for the government, our bureaucrats are extremely cooperative against public interest.
In cases of most of our mega-projects the statement stands true. PMBP or Bridge Authority can not show any single project in the last ten years to have completed within scheduled time.
In your letter, you have elaborated four points including your evaluation of our commentary. To the last two sentences of your first point - "The probable estimated cost of the project has been approved after extensive evaluation by the appropriate authority of the government. The reported 'unforeseen and unanticipated cost' is far from truth, baseless and unjustified." The very first step of any project and mega-projects for that matter begins with a feasibility study. If the feasibility study was correct why the need has arisen to procure more land after nearly a decade?
Moreover, you have mentioned in the first lines of you response "Bangladesh has the potentiality to execute and establish mega projects with its own technical and financial resources."
Then how come, China Major Bridge Engineering Construction Company is implementing the project as the main contractor. Head of the Padma Bridge project expert team Professor Jamilur Reza Chowdhury told the media recently, "We have brought changes in the design of foundation pillars and the number of pillars has also increased."
Clearly from a design and a technical perspective, if the design of foundation were not flawed and poorly planned the need for change wouldn't have arisen. Moreover, he also said it's not possible to finish construction by December 2018.
PMB's experts and officials have told the media - "We are facing problems in carrying out river training. And some 22 pillars have been redesigned and the number of pillars has been increased from 240 to 262." These are understandably not minor but major flaws because of a feasibility study and design done on a rush with inexperienced officials.
You have taken objection to our heading that stated 'big opportunity for corruption'. We hadn't mentioned corruption to have riddled the project. We clearly stated potential avenues of corruption to be opened up, since it has happened in most of our mega-projects.
In your third point you mentioned of our 'ignorance on technical issues of building bridges'. As you may have noticed by now, we have used numerable sources, news references and news links prior drafting our commentary - would you brand all our news sources ignorant too?
You have mentioned on the third paragraph - "Actually there exists no model or standard to solve through prevailing geotechnical engineering technology. It is time consuming and related to indefinite variable parameters."
We admit that technical matters are not easily understandable yet the people shall always demand justification for rising question in a corruption ridden situation.  In our view the term 'indefinite variable parameters' is vague to a greater extent.
Any way, it was the right thing for you to have explained with your expertise the questions raised by us for judging by the people. We hope you will understand our anxiety for due completion of this hugely important project.

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