Bangladesh Army has made a fresh proposal for repairing Meghna and Meghna-Gumti bridges on Dhaka-Chittagong highway with a cost of Tk 447 crore.
According to the revised project proposal submitted to the communications ministry earlier this month, over Tk 300 crore would be needed as the new proposal includes mending of Meghna-Gumti bridge and a different method to fill the scoured riverbed near the Meghna bridge.
During a meeting between the ministry and army officials over the proposal, the ministry asked the army to have the opinion of Buet experts on the cost.
The army had made the proposal after conducting an underwater survey recently.
As per the revised plan, the filling up of the scoured part of the riverbed under Meghna bridge, with concrete blocks and sand bags, will cost around Tk 290 crore. The initial plan was to fill with concrete blocks at a cost of Tk 135 crore.
The Meghna-Gumti bridge has no scouring issues but many of its expansion joints and hinge bearings have been badly damaged and need replacements.
Recently, the army, entrusted with the repair job, carried out temporary patch ups on both the bridges at a cost of Tk 10 crore. They made temporary repairs to some of the joints and hinge bearings.
Earlier, Roads and Highways Department (RHD) prepared a proposal to repair only the Meghna bridge for Tk 150 crore. The work plan included replacing the damaged expansion joints and hinge bearings, and filling up of the riverbed scouring at three piers.
The RHD had then decided to use concrete blocks in 2.50 lakh cubic metres around three piers of the Meghna bridge.
In the new plan, the area to be filled was reduced to 2.30 lakh cubic metres and Buet experts suggested that geo-textile and geo-synthetic bags filled with sand be used in addition to some concrete blocks.
The decision to construct new bridges alongside the existing ones is a reason for the change in the way the riverbed is going to be filled.
Experts say that concrete blocks will cause difficulties in piling work for the proposed bridges.
The repair of the bridges was scheduled to start this month.
However, filling up of the scoured riverbed will start next month.
Buet consultant for the project Prof Khan Mahmud Amanat said, “A large hole has been detected some 400 metres south of pier-8 of Meghna bridge during a recent survey, which is the main reason for the high cost in the RDPP [revised development project proposal].
“We are assessing whether we at all need to fill the hole. The cost will come down significantly if it is not needed.”
“We are looking into it [the cost] and will inform the communications ministry in a week or two,” said Amanat, also a teacher of Buet's civil engineering department.
Meanwhile, several officials of the ministry while discussing the revised proposal recently expressed reservation about the cost. They questioned some issues of the fresh proposal including the procurement of three four-wheel-drive vehicles and a pick-up truck for Tk 12.7 crore.
Asked about the high cost, Communications Secretary MAN Siddique said the cost increased due to the plan to use sandbags.
He said the consultants of Buet and the army were assessing the cost. "We will prepare a proposal in line with their suggestions and send it to Ecnec for approval," Siddique told The Daily Star.
The Japanese-built bridges are crucial for uninterrupted road communication between Dhaka and Chittagong. The Meghna bridge was opened in 1991 while Meghna-Gumti bridge was opened in 1995.