Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened the train service on the 82km Dhaka-Bhanga route through the Padma Bridge.She inaugurated the milestone project from Mawa Railway Station in Munshiganj.Earlier in the day, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reached the rally on 10 October 2023.Railways Minister Nurul Islam Sujan received the prime minister.Sheikh Hasina’s youngest sister Sheikh Rehana and grandchildren are accompanying her. The remaining portion of the project linking Jashore is expected to be launched in June of next year. On September 7, the trial run of a specialized train along the Dhaka-Bhanga route via the Padma Bridge concluded successfully.Prior to this, Bangladesh Railway conducted a trial run from Bhanga to the Mawa end of the Padma Bridge on April 4, following the completion of the stone-less railway line on the bridge.On October 14, of the preceding year, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the construction phase of the rail link connecting Dhaka and Jessore as part of the “Padma Bridge Rail Link Construction Project.”The project is estimated to cost Tk39,246.80 crore, with the Exim Bank of China providing a loan of Tk21,036.70 crore.
Padma Rail Bridge will play an important role in the sustainable economic development of the country as an integrated multidimensional communication system.There is no alternative to Bangladesh Railways for comfortable, affordable, safe, and low-cost passenger and goods transportation.Construction of new railway lines, rehabilitation of old railways, conversion of meter/broad gauge lines to dual gauge, procurement and rehabilitation of locomotives, passenger coaches, and freight wagons, modernization of signaling system, the introduction of new train services under the direct patronage of the current railway friendly government have put the railways in a more reliable position.In addition, Bangladesh Railways plays a proactive role in dealing with emergency situations by transporting relief, food and clothing during natural disasters such as floods, cyclones and tidal waves in the country.Storms, fogs and natural calamities could never disrupt rail traffic.As a safe, affordable and comfortable means of communication, railways are of immense importance in a populous country like Bangladesh. The country’s economy revolves around the Padma Bridge.
A new dimension has been created in bridging the south-western region with other parts of the country.Along with fast travel, various economic opportunities have been created.In the context of the sky-high potential that has been created in tourism and industrialization in the southern and southwestern regions of the country through the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, the formulation and implementation of an integrated outline of the development plan has become very important.In that region of the country, there are many sightseeing places and tourist spots including Sundarbans, the world’s largest mangrove forest, Kuakata, a beautiful beach where you can watch the sunrise and sunset from the same place, Khanjahan Ali’s shrine and the six-domed mosque, which have not accumulated until now due to the difficulty of traveling across the raging Padmani River.The connection of the Padma Bridge has created new economic opportunities in agriculture in the south and south-west of the country, as well as new investments in industrialization and tourism.Taking all these things into consideration, the government decided to provide a rail link to Padma Bridge.Following this, Hon’ble Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Padma Bridge Rail Link Construction Project.According to the work plan of Railways, through the implementation of the Padma Rail Link Project, the rail network will be connected from Dhaka to Jashore through Munshiganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur and Narail districts via the Padma Bridge.At the same time, the Bhanga to Pachuria-Rajbari section will be directly connected to Dhaka through Padma Bridge. Distance from Dhaka to Khulna by train is now 381 km.The distance between Dhaka and Khulna will be 212 km in the new railway which is being constructed through the Padma bridge.Khulna can be reached in four hours instead of 11 hours.The cost of transporting goods will also decrease.The Padma Rail Link Project has opened the door to such diverse possibilities.Trains from Dhaka to western districts now go through Bangabandhu Bridge and Hardinge Bridge.If the railway starts at Padma Bridge, the trains will not have to go around so much to reach their destination.
The Padma Bridge was inaugurated on 25th June 2022. The impact of the Padma Bridge has reduced poverty in the region by 1 percent and nationally it will reduce by 0.8 percent. The GDP growth will be 1.23 percent in South West region and 0.56 percent nationally. As a result of river management for the Padma Bridge, 9,000 hectares of land are protected from drought and floods at a cost of USD 156 million. Ferry service cost saving of $400 million on the Mawa-Jazira route.
Analysts have pointed out that the Padma Bridge is contributing greatly to the improvement of the economy and quality of life and the agricultural revolution and employment. Through the Padma Bridge, a direct road connection has been created with the capital Dhaka and the southwestern region of the country. Travel time between the capital and the southwest region has been reduced by a quarter. Where it used to take 10 to 12 hours to travel to the southwestern districts, it now takes two and a half hours to a maximum of three and a half hours. Due to the opening of the Padma Bridge, the tourism sector has also developed greatly. Being part of the proposed Asian Highway and Trans-Asian Railway Network, the Padma Bridge will facilitate regional connectivity. The Padma Bridge is contributing to 29 percent growth in the construction sector, 9.5 percent in the agriculture sector and 8 percent in manufacturing and transportation.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the Padma Bridge on June 25 last year. On that day, the Prime Minister started the auspicious journey of traffic on Padma Bridge by paying a toll of 16 thousand 400 taka. Our Padma bridge with our own money is standing tall in the chest of Padma today. This bridge is a means of communication and a gateway to development. Various businesses including industry, culture, agriculture, tourism, and industry have expanded through this bridge. As a result of this bridge, the image of the agriculture-based economy of 21 districts of the south and southwest has changed. Southern vegetables are being exported to Europe for the first time across the country. Due to the ease of communication, there is a demand for vegetables onthe Padma River bank, which is only 50 km from the capital. Not only this but through contract farming, there has been an opportunity to export a lot of vegetables to the European market in the last few months. Therefore, thousands of farmers are being trained and advised to produce quality vegetables. Farmers and traders are benefiting from the sale of vegetables at fair prices. Farmers said that earlier, the agricultural products produced could not be marketed on time due to the time it took to cross the ferry. After the construction of the Padma Bridge, the agricultural products produced in this region were exported abroad. According to the type of soil, work is going on to produce vegetables for export in uncultivated land. The construction of packaging and processing centers is underway to facilitate exports.
32 thousand 605 crore 52 lakh taka has been spent on the construction of the Padma bridge. Over 53 lakh vehicles crossed through Padma Bridge last year. More than 795 crores of tolls have been collected for crossing these vehicles. Furthermore,within a year, residents of 21 districts in the southwestern part of the country have started reaping the benefits of the Padma Bridge. With the welfare of this bridge, time is saved, working hours are saved, investment is increasing, employment is increasing and radical changes have come in the communication sector. Therefore, in this one year, Padma Bridge has achieved much more than expected. According to the target of the first year from toll, the bridge department has paid the debt of Tk 632 crore 93 lakh 66 thousand 142. Apart from this, 120 crores of VAT have been paid to the government at the rate of 15 percent. However, about 10 months after the inauguration, motorcycles were allowed to cross the Padma Bridge from April 20. Padma Bridge is supposed to contribute 1.23 percent to the country’s GDP. But the picture of contribution to GDP will not be visible in just one year. The most important thing is the courage with which Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the initiative to build this dream Padma Bridge with the country’s money and made it a reality – this is a great achievement.
Due to the opening of the Padma Bridge, there has been a great improvement in the socio-economic aspects of the region. Earlier, someone from those areas had to stay at least two nights and one day in Dhaka to get some work done. But now they can come in the day and leave within the day. It cannot be interpreted as how big it is found in those areas. Apart from that, trade has increased, investment is increasing, the tourism sector has improved greatly, and the value of land has increased a lot, which is benefiting the people of those areas.
The number of tourists in Kuakata Beach and other tourist areas in the area has increased. Now tourists are going to Kuakata by 100 to 150 cars every day. Barishal can be reached in just two and a half hours from Dhaka. This benefit meets the welfare of this Padma Bridge. Entrepreneurs are coming to invest heavily in this area. They are buying lots of land to set up factories. It increases employment. The biggest thing is that the agriculture and livestock sector of the Barishal division has improved greatly due to the opening of the Padma Bridge. Earlier, they had to wait for hours for the launch to bring and take the products. A lot of products would have been wasted on the way. This is no longer the case. So,the opening of the Padma Bridge has brought a radical change in the life of the people of the South-West region. The economy of 21 districts has changed.
Due to the Padma bridge, the speed of import and export of goods has increased at the Benapole land port. Traders of BenapoleLandPort, the country’s largest land port, can deliver goods to various places including the capital Dhaka at low cost and in a short time. This port is becoming more dynamic due to the easy and improved communication system through the Padma Bridge. Earlier, getting the serial of the ferry, and traveling through other roads would have increased the cost of the traders. Now both time and cost have been reduced due to the Padma Bridge. After the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, the economic condition of 21 districts in the south and south-western regions of the country is undergoing a radical change. The fate of the people of this region is changing. Direct communication has been established with Mongla and Payra ports.
The government has undertaken an integrated master plan for tourism-based development around the wide area from Payra to Kuakata. This master plan includes an international airport, modern tourist center, industrial port city, planned urbanization, communication, development of the economy and agriculture sector, environment protection and climate change-related activities including disaster risk. The Padma Bridge will play a major role in these cases. In the future, the Padma Bridge will play an important role in communication, trade and tourism in South Asia and Southeast Asia. Helping backward regions to increase employment, investment and exports through roads and railways. Railway lines will add another 1 percent to GDP.
In the last year, the Padma Bridge has changed the lives of three crore people in 21 districts of the southwestern region of the country. The economy of the region has changed. According to the Khulna Export Promotion Bureau, the income from the products exported from this region has increased by about Tk. 1000 crore in the fiscal year 2022-23. Due to the Padma multi-purpose bridge, as the communication system in the region has undergone a radical change, the economy has also been greatly boosted. Also, the dying Mongla port is now buzzing with activity. Besides, 18 projects have been brought under the purview of the Padma Bridge to ensure a direct connection with Mongla port and communication system with the northern region. Seven other projects are also under preparation, including upgrading the Jashore-Khulna Mongla highway to six lanes.
In the South-Western region, the export income in the financial year 2021-22 was 6 thousand 47 crore 38 lakh 25 thousand 815 taka. After the launch of the Padma multi-purpose bridge, the export income in the financial year 2022-23 has reached 7 thousand 1 crore 64 lakh 45 thousand 675 taka. In one year the export income has increased to 954 crores 26 lakhs 19 thousand 860 taka. That is, the growth rate of export income is 15.78 percent. The communication system is the measure of everything in a country. The Padma Bridge opened up new horizons in the commercial field. A lot of business establishments have been established in this area in the last year. At present traders have chosen Khulna, Mongla, Bhomra and Benapole as export routes. In the fiscal year 2021-22, goods worth 559.6 million 91 thousand 925 dollars were exported from the South-Western region. In the current financial year, 64 crore 79 lakh 40 thousand 456 dollars’ worth of goods have been exported abroad. After the inauguration of the Padma multi-purpose bridge, traders are now able to export goods in a risk-free environment and within a specified time frame.
The Padma Bridge not only solved the traffic of people and goods but also radically changed the fate of the people of the southwestern region. The Padma Bridge has made Bangladesh stand tall in front of the whole world by activating the dying Mongla port. In these words, it can be said that Sheikh Hasina has impressed the world by building the dream of the Padma Bridge with her own funding. In the face of challenges, the construction of thisPadma Bridge has been possible only for the daughter of Bangabandhu. With the opening of the Padma Bridge, there has been a radical change in the direct communication system with Mongla Port. Businessmen from different parts of the country are importing cars from abroad. They are currently picking up their vehicles from Mongla Port instead of using ChattogramPort for a lower cost. Due to this more cars have been imported through Mongla port than Chattogram port since June 25 last year. Even our trade with neighboring country India has increased. Most of Khulna’s income came from exports from frozen fish and jute industries, one of the country’s foreign exchange earning sectors. After the opening of the Padma Bridge, the sector is regaining its lost glory and the income has also increased. Along with this, the cost of transportation of goods has also decreased. The Padma Bridge has changed the face of the economy not only of the southwestern region but of the entire Bangladesh.
Due to the Padma Bridge, the frozen fishery sector of Bangladesh is going to turn around again. Traders can export frozen shrimp and other fish to Chattogram port on time through this bridge. Exporters are benefiting a lot from this.
Sundarbans is the world’s largest mangrove forest with parts of Khulna, Satkhira, Bagerhat, Barguna and Patuakhali. The area of this forest is spread over 6517 square kilometers. Local and foreign tourists once lost interest in visiting Sundarbans due to long time wasted and poor transportation system. After the opening of the Padma Bridge, that scenario changed. In the last year, a large number of local and foreign tourists are coming to Sundarbans. On the one hand, the local residents are enjoying the benefits, and the government is getting revenue.
The Padma Bridge is boosting the economy of the South West region. Apart from this, the development of agriculture-based industries has created employment for people. In one year, with the radical change in the road communication system, a wide opportunity has been created for the transportation of goods. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has put a smile on the face of the people of the region by constructing the Padma Bridge in Mawa.
Hiren Pandit is a columnist and a researcher