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China-made bridge opens in Bangladesh

By LIU KUN in Wuhan and ZHOU HUIYING | CHINA DAILY | Updated: 2022-06-28 08:37

The Padma Multipurpose Bridge over the Padma River is put into operation in Bangladesh on Saturday. [Photo by LI XIANG/FOR CHINA DAILY]

After eight years of construction, the Padma Multipurpose Bridge in Bangladesh opened to the public on Saturday, slashing travel times from parts of the southwest of the country to the capital Dhaka from seven to eight hours to as little as just 10 minutes.

The 21.5-meter-wide, 6.15-kilometer-long bridge built over the Padma River, the main branch of the Ganges, has two levels with the upper tier having a four-lane highway and the lower tier a single-track railway, according to Wuhan-based China Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group, or MBEC, one of China's biggest bridge makers.

Before that, travelers and goods were ferried via boat or ship because of the vast width and fast-flowing nature of the river, and the tendency of the area to flood.

In 2014, the Bangladeshi government awarded MBEC a $1.54-billion contract to build the core structure of the bridge, making it the country's largest infrastructure project as well as the largest foreign bridge project undertaken by Chinese companies in terms of total cost.

"The construction was much harder than expected as the complicated geological conditions brought multiple challenges to us," said Shen Tao, deputy general manager of the project. "The bridge is located above a river with banks on loose soil, and downpours in the rainy season often caused flooding, bringing us numerous difficulties we never experienced before.

"During the construction, we had to adjust the design scheme to adapt to environmental changes whenever necessary," he added.

"However, through continuous learning and adaptation, construction teams have greatly improved their abilities including technology, communication and adaptability," said Wen Wusong, chairman of MBEC. "They demonstrated the strength of China's road bridge construction to the whole world and the bridge is a model of international cooperation."

Over the past eight years, the project has created over 50,000 jobs for local residents, according to MBEC.

"I have been working on the project for two years," said 32-year-old Mahdi Hasan. "At the beginning, I knew little about construction surveying. After training and practice, now I have mastered the operation of various surveying equipment such as gradienters and satellite navigation equipment.

"I believe these skills can help me continue to serve other projects in the future," he said.

"In the past, all seven members of my family lived in three small rooms with a total area of less than 40 square meters," he said. "As I got a much higher income from the job, I could help my family build a two-story house."

According to Mostak Ahamed Galib, a researcher of cross-cultural communication at Wuhan University of Technology, the Padma bridge project will bring benefits to Bangladesh in the coming years.

"I came to Wuhan from Bangladesh 20 years ago," he said.

"Every time I walked near the Yangtze River Bridge in Wuhan, I thought it would be great if a bridge like it could be built over the Padma River.

"Now my dream came true," he said. "The bridge will bring positive changes to residents in southwestern Bangladesh and become their way to happiness."

According to news reports from Bangladesh, the bridge is expected to help increase the country's annual GDP by 1.5 percent after completion and bring benefits to over 80 million people.

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