Under its first Bridge Improvement and Maintenance Programme (BIMP I), the Nepal transport sector achieved targets to strengthen institutions and physical infrastructure, including the maintenance, rehabilitation and construction of new bridges. The project was implemented with support from the World Bank using the Program-for-Results (PforR) lending instrument.
Under BIMP II, network arch bridges will be introduced in Nepal; however, the project implementation team did not have experience designing these structures. It was therefore imperative to gain new knowledge and technical skills to design this type of bridge using advanced and innovative technologies that are better able to withstand disaster risks, including weather- and climate-related shocks such as earthquakes and floods. To address this challenge, the South-South Facility supported a knowledge exchange with Bangladesh.
Towards a Solution
BIMP I was implemented to support the efforts of the Government of Nepal in order to maintain and provide access to safe, resilient and cost-effective bridges on the country’s Strategic Roads Network. BIMP II, a second phase, was later implemented to further support the Government in improving bridge resilience and including non-motorized transport modes using advanced technical designs. Its objective is to support approximately 475 bridges in Nepal. This includes carrying out maintenance on approximately 90 bridges and upgrading road safety measures on approximately 180 existing bridges to help reduce accidents, injuries and fatalities. The program also aims to support the construction, rehabilitation or replacement of about 80 two-lane bridges and 35 four-lane bridges.
To address the lack of experience, a knowledge exchange was organized with Bangladesh, a country with extensive knowledge and experience in the design and construction of long-span bridges, including network arch bridges. Bangladesh also has experience providing on-the-job training and certification programs to professionals in the transport and construction sectors. At the same time, officials from the Local Government Engineering Department (LGED) of Bangladesh were keen to learn about the experience of Nepal in using the PforR lending instrument of the World Bank, as LGED was preparing to launch a similar program using PforR. In addition, Bangladesh transport sector government officials were hoping to learn about developing a bridge management system.
For Nepal, the main objectives of the exchange were to gain technical knowledge on advanced technologies for bridge construction and learn from the experiences and practices of Bangladesh government officials and private sector stakeholders involved in advanced bridge construction. Representatives from Nepal also sought to share their experience regarding bridge assessment with Bangladeshi counterparts responsible for building a bridge funded by the PforR.
The exchange was designed in close collaboration with the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET) in Dhaka. It consisted of technical sessions, peer-to-peer learning and site visits. It was conducted using a participant-centred learning approach, allowing for active engagement and participation throughout sessions and site visits. The exchange mobilized a wide range of resource persons, including high-profile professionals of BUET, LGED and the Bangladesh Road and Highways Department (RHD), as well as certified national trainers on procurement.
The exchange was structured around four main elements: technical sessions, knowledge-sharing and peer-learning sessions, site visits and a feasibility study.
Technical sessions covered the evolution and fundamentals of network arch bridge design and construction; their geometry; modelling in SAP 2000 software; the application of load and prestress; load combination; and analysis, results and design.
Knowledge-sharing and peer-learning sessions were held during discussions and meetings with representatives of the Bangladesh Association of Construction Industry and the Bangladesh LGED. Topics included the definition of quality bridge construction, especially for high-value contracts; good bidding practices; training and supervision of field engineers; the roles and institutional responsibilities of LGED and RHD; progress and feedback on the development of a bridge management system; and resources used by LGED for designing medium- and large-sized bridges.
The site visits were carefully selected to complement the technical sessions. In order to study network arch bridges, participants visited several sites, including the Dhanmondi, Sanssad Bhaban , Rayerbazar Graveyard and Jamuna bridges. Technical questionnaires were distributed to all participants at each site, with a view to applying knowledge acquired during technical sessions, learning about the technical characteristics of each particular bridge and helping participants better understand how bridges should be integrated into urban and rural environments.
A separate feasibility study was carried out by the World Bank transport team to explore and propose options to help strengthen the technical capacity and certification in the construction industry in Nepal. Proposed options included the establishment of a twinning arrangement with reputable and financially stable entities in the bridge construction sector within the region or in areas where internationally recognized good practices have been identified. The study provided recommendations on the planning, design and implementation of skill enhancement programs for contractor staff. These programs will include advanced techniques for bridge construction, rehabilitation, maintenance and climate resilience and will be implemented at a later stage based on the recommendations.
The knowledge and technical skills shared by Bangladesh were of tremendous value for the Nepalese delegation, particularly given the countries’ similarities in terms of governance, economy, climate, geography and topography. Members of the Nepalese delegation gained knowledge and enhanced their skills in various technical aspects, including structural requirements for network arch bridges, their benefits and resilience, risks and causes of failure, good practices on bridge loading and construction, the use of advanced technologies to implement bridge projects, the practical use of SAP 2000 software to design bridges in the context of the country’s geotechnical conditions and the application of steel pipe sheet pile foundations. They also learned about good practices for quality bidding, bridge selection and construction, procurement and tender management.
The Bangladeshi team also learned from the Nepalese experience and gained new knowledge in bridge asset management, bridge management systems and how to implement a bridge project using PforR funding.