AIIB approves $260m loan for Bangladesh bridge

Highway snakes through a city in Bangladesh

Kewatkhali Bridge set to be the first arch steel bridge in Bangladesh.

The Asian Infrastructure Investment Bank (AIIB) has approved a $260m loan for the construction of a 1.1km long arch steel bridge and 6km of connecting roads. The project intends to facilitate trade and divert traffic from current routes through the northern city of Mymensingh.

Once completed, it is expected that more than 11 million people in the region will benefit from the integration of local and regional markets. The bridge will shorten the travel time for people and vehicles and contribute to the reduction of carbon emissions while also serving as a vital new part of the Dhaka-Mymensingh-India border corridor, which is strategically important for local and regional economic connectivity.

AIIB senior investment operations specialist Natalia Sanz commented on the investment: “AIIB considers the financing of the Kewatkhali Bridge at Mymensingh an opportunity to use the latest technology in bridge maintenance and management to improve its structural performance, service life and the safety of the bridge for residents and motorists.”

That new technology includes a new Bridge Health Monitoring System (BHMS), an inbuilt early detection system to help identify structural wear and tear throughout the lifetime of the bridge, making maintenance more effective and less costly. Providing data on load and environmental effects, as well as the bridge responses, the BHMS captures real time indicators and links to a bridge rating system to allow for more efficient monitoring and periodic inspection.

Sanz explained: “By studying the changes observed in bridge conditions over time, engineers can develop models to distinguish the effects of maintenance activity from normal wear and tear. State-of-the-art work in this area includes deepening our understanding of physical deterioration processes, especially the effect of structural damage on the reliability and performance of structural components.”

Training and institutional development of the national Roads and Highways Department will also be integral to the project. It will cover the maintenance and operation of an arch steel bridge and the use of the BHMS, because this is the first bridge of its kind in Bangladesh.