Bridges had been built on all the rivers except Payra and Padma rivers. The Payra bridge in Lebukhai was inaugurated on Sunday whereas construction of Padma bridge is nearing to an end. The government plans to open Padma bridge to traffic in June next year.

People concerned from the transport sector said once the Padma bridge opens, travelling by road from Dhaka to Kuakata may take 6-7 hours. Currently, it takes about 10 hours if there is no tailback on the jetty. But there is always tailback on the jetty and sometimes a trip even takes more than 15 hours. Often vehicles had to wait for more than an hour to cross the Payra river.

Mohiuddin Ahmed, mayor of Patuakhli’s Sadar municipality and president of Patuakahli Chamber of Commerce and Industries, told Prothom Alo the Payra river had disconnected Barishal from Patuakhali and there have been a bridge now. Once the Padma bridge is completed, travelling from Dhaka to the tourist site Kuakata will be undisrupted. Payra port will get importance now. Trade and commerce will also increase, he added.

Kuakata is the second largest sea beach of the country after Cox’s Bazar. The government has also a plan on industrialisation along with tourism potential in Kuakata. Work to set up an economic zone is underway. A thermal power plant has been built at Payra. Work of a three dimensional naval jetty is progressing at Patuakhali’s Kalapara. Fresh investment is pouring in Kuakata. Everyone expect more tourists would visit Kuakata in coming days.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, Motaleb Sharif, general secretary of Kuakata Hotel-Motel Owners Association, said people from far districts did not want to travel to Kuakata due to sufferings on the road. Now their hassle would decrease and tourists in Kuakata would increase, he added.

The Payra bridge has been constructed on the Payra river on Dhaka-Barishal-Patuakhali-Kuakata highway in Lebukali area. It was built in accordance with the model of the Shah Amanat bridge on Karnaphuli river in Chattogram. The four-lane Payra bridge is 1,470 metres long, 19.76 metres wide and 18.30 metres high from the water level of the river.

There were a total of 7km connecting roads on either side of the bridge. People concerned said, since only a pillar has been installed in the middle of the river, the flow of the river would not be disrupted. Besides, the bridge health monitor has been installed. As a result, signal would be received prior to any possible damage caused by natural disasters including lightning and earthquake or movement of overloaded vehicles.

Sources said the government approved the Payra bridge construction project in May 2012 at a cost of Tk 4.13 billion (413 crore). Prime minister Sheikh Hasina laid foundation of the bridge on 19 March 2013. The design of the bridge was changed and the budget was revised to Tk 11.70 billion (1,170 crore). Though Tk 11.18 billion (1,118 crore) was spent to build the bridge.

Kuwait Fund for Arab Economic Development and OPEC Fund for International Development financed the project and Chinese contractor firm Longjian Road and Bridge Construction constructed the bridge.

Project director of Payra bridge project Abdul Halim told Prothom Alo on Saturday there would be no sufferings anymore once the bridge opens to traffic.

Visiting the Payra bridge area on Friday, people were seen gathering to enjoy the scenic view in the area. Lighting was done on the bridge. A festive mood prevailed among the locals. People see the bridge as fulfilment of their dream.

Chairman of Patuakhali zila parishad, freedom fighter Khalilur Rahman told Prothom Alo the inauguration of the bridge fulfils the dream of people in the southern region.

*This report appeared in the print and online edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna

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