Padma Bridge: A symbol of pride

Hiren Pandit

Bangladesh is on the way to a developing country today. Moreover, the Padma Bridge is not just a bridge, it is a symbol of our development, pride. Self-esteem, self-identity, merit are above all the fruits of the commitment of Bangabandhu’s daughter Sheikh Hasina.

Finishing work is underway to open the Padma Bridge on June 30. After the last 41st span was installed on the bridge on December 10, 2020, the railway slab and the roadway slab were installed one by one. Concreting of all eight extension joints of the 6.15 km long main bridge has been completed and two joints have been set up.

 So now people can move through the Padma Bridge. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina recently visited with her younger sister Sheikh Rehana to see the final phase of the work of the long-cherished Padma Bridge.

The actual progress of the main bridge is 96 percent and the financial progress is 91.28 percent. The actual progress of river governance is 6 percent and the financial progress is 7.36 percent.

The Padma Bridge will be an aesthetic two-story bridge. The train will run through the bottom. With the launch of this bridge, communication with 21 districts of the south will be easier.

According to the economic impact analysis of the Padma Bridge, the construction of the bridge will facilitate communication, expand trade and commerce and create small and medium enterprises in the south, increase the country’s GDP by 1.2 percent annually and increase the southern GDP by 2.5 percent.

The construction of the bridge will improve the integrated communication system of the country. Mawa-Bhanga-Jashore-Khulna rail link will be established from Dhaka. Economic corridors will be opened from Dhaka to Khulna, Mongla, Barisal and Kuakata. The southern part of the country will be connected to the Trans-Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway.

Direct communication will be established with India, Bhutan and Nepal and there will be facilities for the transportation of passengers and goods.

The establishment of new economic zones and high-tech parks will attract domestic and foreign investment and accelerate the industrialization of the country. The tourism industry will be greatly improved and new resorts and hotels, shopping malls, business establishments etc. will be set up in Mawa and Zajira. Mongla and Payra ports will remain open, which can be used by many neighboring countries.

According to 2010 estimates, if the bridge is opened on the Padma River, which carries 12,000 vehicles per day, the traffic will be doubled and the number of vehicles will increase by 7-8 percent every year and by 2050, 67,000 vehicles will be moving. This number may increase daily.

Development partners, including the World Bank, have realized that they have made a mistake by withdrawing from the Padma Bridge project. Now development partners are investing in mega projects in Bangladesh. Japan is lending to mega projects like Metrorail, Materbari deep seaport, power plant. The experience of implementing the Padma Bridge project has made the Government of Bangladesh, experts and engineers confident in the implementation of the mega project.

At present 10-12 mega projects are running in the country, the pioneer of which is the Padma Bridge project.

The Padma Bridge is now visible. The bridge of pride stands today. As a result of the construction of the Padma Bridge in its sense, the economic potential and image of Bangladesh have been established all over the world. A bold decision by the Prime Minister has earned her international recognition as a confident, determined statesman.

Today, Bangladesh’s economic progress, continuous GDP growth and improvement of Bangladesh’s position in various social indicators are internationally recognized. The sacrifices made by the Prime Minister, her family members, the accused ministers and the advisers for this bridge have been accepted in the success of the implementation of the Padma Bridge project.

When the bridge is commissioned in June 2022, it will provide a direct road link between the capital and the 21 southern and southwestern districts, which will give a huge boost to the micro-economy of the district as well as the overall economy of the country. It will establish rail links with some districts where there is currently no rail link.

The prerequisite for the development of different regions of a state is to build an improved communication system for those regions. A 4.6 km long Bangabandhu Bridge (Jamuna Bridge) was constructed over the river Jamuna for easy communication between the capital and the eastern part of the country, between the northern and north-western parts of the country.

When the construction of the road bridge was completed in 1997, the bridge was opened for traffic. Within a few years of the construction of the Jamuna Bridge, the people of the northern part of the country, including farmers, traders and industrialists, began to reap the benefits of improved communication. The economy of the region is moving.

After the completion of the feasibility study of the Padma Bridge in 2005 with the assistance of the Government of Japan, the project was later considered technically and economically feasible. Incumbent Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina laid the foundation stone of the bridge in Mawa on July 4, 2001, towards the end of the first term of her government.

When the Awami League government came to power in the second term on January 8, 2009, steps were taken to expedite the work of the Padma Bridge project. This project was declared the highest priority project. Monsell-Ecom, a US-New Zealand-Australia-based consulting firm, was hired as a design consultant and signed a loan agreement with the World Bank for financing the project at 1,220 million, 815 million and 430 million.

During the evaluation of tenders for these projects, in some cases, there were disagreements with the World Bank team, but they were resolved through discussions and correspondence. But in the evaluation of the supervisory consultancy, the vested interest groups made false allegations to the World Bank.

The World Bank further alleged that the communications minister had approached pre-qualified contractors to become local agents. Due to the relentless denial of the allegations, on June 26, 2012, the outgoing head of the World Bank, Robert Jelick, canceled the loan agreement for the bridge.

In a cabinet meeting in July 2012, the Prime Minister decided that the government would build the Padma Bridge with its funds. Later, the Prime Minister gave the World Bank time till January 31, 2013, to return to the Padma Bridge project.

Finally, the Prime Minister refused a loan from the World Bank and announced the construction of the Padma Bridge with its funding. After further investigation, in 2016, the Canadian Supreme Court also dismissed the case based on “baseless” information. Bangladesh is free from stigma. The Prime Minister’s ‘challenge’ is won.

Self-esteem, self-identity, merit are above all the fruits of the conviction of Bangabandhu daughter Sheikh Hasina. A writ was recently filed in the High Court seeking the name of this bridge of pride as ‘Sheikh Hasina Bridge’.

In Parliament, proposals have been raised repeatedly outside Parliament. But every time the Prime Minister politely replied that she did not want it. This is the generosity of Sheikh Hasina.

Hiren Pandit is a columnist

and researcher

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