Minister of Construction and Infrastructure Dr Abdulla Muhthalib has stated on Thursday that he believes the reasons behind the failure to complete work on the ThilaMale' bridge by Afcons as scheduled is inexperience in such work and underestimation of the work involved.
In a press conference held after having inspected the progress of the work on the ThilaMale' bridge, the Minister claimed that constructing bridges in the Maldives is more complicated than similar projects conducted in other countries.
He explained that this is because pillars need to be constructed in seas with strong currents, with large waves breaking over the location, and the difference in the conditions under the sea.
He said that the same challenges had been faced during the construction of the SinaMale' bridge during President Dr Mohamed Muizzu's tenure as Housing Minister, and that the same challenges had been quoted by Afcons.
Muhthalib, who has a PhD in Civil, Environmental and Geomatic Engineering, stated that construction of 50 meter deep pillars in these conditions would prove to be highly challenging, especially to persons who do not have prior experience in such an undertaking.
"This is something that will be very challenging, and pose a learning curve, for those who don't have prior experience in exactly the same kind of project. From what I have seen, my perception is that the contractor initially underestimated the level of work involved in this project. The required preparations were not made at the start. Now they have procured the appropriate machinery and things," Muhthalib said.
The initial agreement signed by the previous administration on September 16, 2021, required the completion of the entire bridge by May 17, 2024. However, the contractor has only been able to construct the pillars in this duration. Therefore, the day before the end of his term, President Ibrahim Mohamed Solih approved an extension of three more years for the bridge project.
The Minister said that as the extension has already been agreed on and signed for by the previous administration, the present government has to now ensure the work proceeds on schedule and expedite the work where possible.
"I presume not many companies around the world have the necessary experience in conducting a project like this in similar conditions as posed here in the Maldives. So I believe the delay has been caused due to inexperience, lack of preparation and underestimation of the work involved," Muhthalib said.
"This is what has caused this long delay. But, taking into consideration the machineries and other equipment they have now brought in, as well as how the work is progressing now, our hope and belief is that the project can be completed in line with the new schedule without additional delays, and to expedite the work where it is possible."