The decision to build the much-awaited Padma Bridge, which is set to open for traffic on June 25, through its own finances has brightened Bangladesh's image in the world, writes Dr Malika-e-Abida Khattak for South Asia Monitor.
Bangladesh’s much anticipated Padma Bridge, a dream project, is going to be inaugurated on June 25 by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajed. It will be the deepest foundation bridge in the world. It is a multipurpose road-rail bridge across the Padma River, the main distributary of Ganga.
Commuters of 21 districts of the south-west part of the country cross the Padma river via ferries through the Banglabazar-Shimulia route. Passengers and drivers suffer from long traffic jams. When it opens, the bridge will be the largest in Bangladesh and the first fixed river crossing for road traffic. The two-level steel truss bridge will carry a four-lane highway on the upper level and a single-track railway on the lower level.
The multipurpose bridge, connecting the Mawa point of Munshiganj and the Jajira point of Shariatpur in Bangladesh, is expected to gradually boost the country's GDP by 1.3-2 percent.
PM Hasina had to overcome huge obstacles but she managed to ready the bridge.
When work on the bridge was about to close, the World Bank withdrew its pledge on false charges of corruption. Other donors followed suit. The future of the Padma Bridge was under threat. Critics thought the bridge would never be made.
Then Communications Minister Abul Hossain had to resign from the cabinet. After the construction work started, further challenges came up. Bold and groundbreaking engineering skills were required in river governance. Construction costs continue to rise.
Then Covid-19 erupted. But work of the bridge did not stop even a single day.
Along with the bridge, work on Metro Rail and the country’s biggest tunnel is nearing completion. They will be open to the public this year. Many other mega projects too are being readied.
But the construction of the Padma Bridge was the most challenging of all. It will connect the south-western part of the country to the north-eastern part. Construction of the 6.15 km long and 18.10 m wide bridge started on December 7, 2014.
The bridge has been built by Bangladesh’s own money. Initially, the construction cost was low. Later it increased and stood at $ 3.868 billion. Both construction time and costs increased.
The bridge is expected to majorly boost agriculture. It will create a groundbreaking chapter in the transportation of agricultural commodities. Naturally, farmers will get good prices for their produce. Extensive industrialization is expected to follow in the southwestern region. Resorts, hotels and restaurants are planned to be built around this showpiece bridge.
This bridge will play a unique role in taking Bangladesh in the company of developing nations to which it was officially promoted from the Least Developed Country (LDC) status by the United Nations General Assembly last year.
(The author is a Lahore-based educator, and researcher on South Asia. Views are personal. She can be contacted at email@example.com)