On their day off yesterday, 58 secretaries of different ministries and divisions met at the Padma bridge site in Munshiganj, breaking with the tradition of holding such meetings at the secretariat in the capital.
Cabinet Secretary Musharraf Hossain Bhuiyan told The Daily Star the initiative had been taken for the sake of speedy implementation of the much-talked-about project.
After the meeting, he and other secretaries briefed journalists.
Bridges Division Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam said the final piling work for the bridge would start at the end of December, depending on the weather.
Musharraf said positive news reports on the project were encouraging them. “If you publish the news of irregularities and corruption we can correct ourselves while the positive reports always inspire us.”
The meeting, which lasted for two and a half hours, was held at the conference room of the Padma Bridge Service Area-1 in Dogachhia area of Sreenagar upazila.
It decided that the toll from the bridge would be collected electronically.
Musharraf said apart from discussing progress in the country's largest infrastructure project, they also discussed identifying the areas of coordination among different ministries and divisions involved.
He claimed the move would add more momentum to the work.
After the meeting, the senior government officials went to the construction site at Mawa.
The cabinet secretary said they were satisfied with the work progress and hoped that the project would be completed as per schedule, by 2018.
The secretaries' meeting started around 10:45am. Around an hour earlier, they had reached Dogachhia starting from State Guest House Jamuna in Dhaka in two air-conditioned buses, reports our Munshiganj correspondent.
Saiful Hasan Badal, deputy commissioner of Munshiganj, and Biplob Bijoy Talukder, superintendent of police of the district, welcomed them. Later, the secretaries went to Mawa.
There, the project director of the contractor company, China Major Bridge Engineering Construction Co Ltd, briefed the government officials about the progress of the project.
They left for the capital around 4:00pm.
Shafiqul Islam, director of the Padma bridge project, presented the latest progress report on the construction work.
Musharraf told The Daily Star that they had decided in principle to hold such meetings on the mega projects.
However, he said, whether the meetings would always take place at the project sites would depend on various issues, including time and logistics support.
The meeting was told that when the bridge would be ready, the importance of Payra and Mongla ports would increase and that was why steps should be taken now to modernise the two ports.
After the World Bank withdrew itself from the Padma bridge project following corruption allegations, the government took the initiative to implement the project with its own finance.
The cost of the bridge would be more than Tk 28,000 crore, according to officials of the Bridges Division.