You've heard the saying "Kiwis are Everywhere." Well the more I travel, the more I realise how true that statement is. They are literally making their presence felt in all corners of the globe!
Take John Kepple and Robert Aves for example, two VERY ordinary looking middle-aged men, who are, yes Kiwis, living and working in Bangladesh. And not with any old job either! The pair of them are designing some of the most complex engineering projects in the world. NO EXAGGERATION.
AECOM Engineer Robert Ave's "4 billion dollar baby" is the controvercial Padma Bridge. This bridge would be more than six kilometres long, and cross one of the world's largest rivers, the Padma river, making it the fourth largest bridge in the world, and probably the most complicated.
Bangladesh's monsoon season, and its seismic activity, means the bridge's piles have to go down in excess of 120 metres deep into the river bed. No-one's ever done that before, but this Kiwi has no qualms at being an engineering pioneer.
And not many of us can say that what we do for a day job is going to increase the country's GDP. But Robert Aves can. When built, the improved access between the country's south west and its capital Dhaka will increase GDP by at least 2%. It'll transport not just vehicles, but also carry rail, communication, power and gas infrastructure.
I mentioned the word "controversial" when describing this project, and I kid you not, it's an incredibly sensitive topic in Bangladesh (long story!). Construction hasn't started yet due to allegations of corruption, but the hope is, a new "funder" will come on board shortly and finally develop Robert Ave's baby into a full blown adult.
His colleague AECOM Engineer John Kepple has designed another multi billion dollar project. It's a power station. You may yawn, but during my short stay in Bangladesh, the power was off about 50% of the time! Businesses rely on back up generators (which have a diesel bill with LOTS of zeros on the end). Power availablity is THE most pressing issue in the developing nation, and John and his team are trying to change that.
He's now project managing the Haripur power station, a 360-megawatt combined cycle gas turbine power plant, 22km south-east of Dhaka. It's in the throws of construction, and with 700 workmen on site, it's fast becoming a rescue plan for Bangladesh. When operational in August 2013, it will provide an extra 10% of electricity to the country's power grid. No small feat, and VERY MUCH needed.
Considering how life changing both projects are for one of the world's most vulnerable nations, this engineering duo are sure putting our nation's ingenuity on the map.
Joy Reid travelled to Bangladesh with the assistance of the Asia:NZ Foundation.
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