Chinese Firm to Build Bangladesh's Graft-Hit Bridge

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Dhaka:  A Chinese firm will build Bangladesh's biggest river bridge two years after the $3-billion project was hit by graft, prompting the World Bank to halt its largest-ever infrastructure loan, the government says.

The proposed 6.2-kilometre (3.8-mile) bridge, aimed at transforming Bangladesh's poverty-hit south, over the Padma river - the local name for the Ganges - would connect the capital Dhaka to coastal districts.

"The work order for the main Padma Bridge has been awarded to the China Major Bridge Engineering Company," Communications Minister Obaidul Quader said in a statement late Monday.

The company will build the core part of the bridge at a cost of 121 billion taka ($1.55 billion), the minister said.

The World Bank in June 2012 cancelled the loan for the bridge, saying the government had not cooperated in investigating "high-level" corruption in the project.

The other donors, including a Japanese aid agency and the Asian Development Bank, followed suit, raising uncertainty about whether the key project would ever be constructed.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, however, later vowed the bridge would be built with the impoverished nation's own funds.

The announcement that the Chinese firm will build the bridge comes days before Hasina travels to China on a five-day visit during which Dhaka and Beijing are expected to sign several deals.

The proposed two-level steel truss composite bridge is designed to carry a highway and a rail line and is aimed at transforming the country's impoverished southern region through better road and rail connections.

Right now, all traffic across the Padma must rely on ferries, which are often unsafe due to overloading and poor maintenance.

The project also includes 12 kilometre of approach roads designed to transform the country's isolated southern region.


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