Padma Bridge opens up road to progress

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Padma Bridge has ushered in this spirit of spring even in the height of the monsoons. It has opened the ‘south-facing’ door of development. The much-awaited Padma Bridge is being inaugurated today (25 June). The bridge is being opened for all after prime minister Sheikh Hasina’s inauguration through an elaborate programme at both ends of the 6.15km-long bridge at around 10:00am. People from both ends of the Padma river gather to make the inauguration a memorable event. The inauguration events would not be confined to them alone. The joy engulfs the whole nation.

Padma Bridge is not just a mega development project. It is a symbol of political resolution, courage and capability. Uncertainty arose when the World Bank scrapped financing the project bringing corruption allegations in 2012. The World Bank’s decision created much debate in the political arena as well. The then communications minister Abul Hossain had to leave the cabinet. In this context, prime minister Sheikh Hasina announced, “We will build the bridge with our own financing if the foreigners do not finance it”. She remained steadfast despite many experts terming her announcement as unreal and she inaugurated the construction work on 12 December 2015.

It is a matter of joy and pride for the 170 million people of the country that that bridge is being inaugurated today. On this auspicious moment, we congratulate prime minister Sheikh Hasina and her government. At the same time, we congratulate all the local and foreign engineers, officials and workers involved with the construction work of Padma Bridge project.

There are many longer bridges than the Padma Bridge in the world but the construction of this bridge was very challenging especially because Padma is the one of the rivers with strongest current. To negate the effect of this strong current piling was done at the depth of equal to 16-storey building. There is small chance of damage even if there is strong earthquake. Addressing a press conference on 22 June, prime minister Sheikh Hasina firmly said, “Cutting-edge technology was used in the construction of Padma Bridge. No one can question its quality.”

Bangabandhu Bridge on Jamuna river has been a boost to economic activities in the northern districts. There is no more any ‘monga’ (a seasonal period of famine) in those districts. There will be infrastructural development in the south-western districts following the inauguration of Padma Bridge. People’s living standard will increase as the scope of economic activities, business and jobs will increase. The GDP will increase by at least 1.23 per cent with the bridge, projected a survey report. The GDP of the south-western districts would increase by 2.3 per cent.

However, it must be remembered during construction of roads and other infrastructure that the south-western districts are flood-prone. At the same time, it must be remembered that development work should not become only infrastructure-centred. Scope and an environment have to be created for investment. For this, loan at easy terms, efficient workers and availability of land are important. The full benefit of the bridge could be gained if all these conditions of development and investment are fulfilled.

Not only this, the proposed Trans-Asian railway tracks and highway will go over the Padma Bridge. In that case the Padma Bridge would work as a connector between South and Southeast Asia. The government has taken up different plans to face the onslaught of added traffic in the capital Dhaka following the opening of the bridge. A flyover would be constructed from Savar to Narayanganj via Keraniganj and a circular road around Dhaka. We hope the government would take steps to implement these steps fast to ensure the expected gains from Padma Bridge.