PM Hasina inaugurates Bangladesh’s longest River Padma bridge.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has officially opened a historic bridge over the turbulent Padma River on Saturday. After years of delays brought on by allegations of corruption that caused the World Bank to abandon the nearly $4 billion mega project, which will link Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka to the underdeveloped southwest of the country,
Experts say the 6.15km bridge, built at a cost of nearly $4bn, will connect the impoverished southwestern region to the capital.
The opening of the Padma Bridge on Saturday, Bangladesh’s longest bridge to date and a “symbol of national pride,” is a significant moment in the history of the South Asian country.
The construction of the 6.15km (3.82 miles) bridge began in November 2015 to connect 21 districts of the country’s southwest with Dhaka via road and rail, thereby cutting travel time considerably.
One of the most expensive mega-projects Bangladesh has ever undertaken, the $3.87 billion construction cost was covered entirely by the Bangladeshi government.
In 2012, the World Bank withdrew from a $1.2bn loan agreement for the project following allegations of corruption. Following suit, other donors, including Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), also pulled out of the project.
The iconic declaration that her government will self-fund the project was made by Hasina, who led the push to build the bridge.
Since Bangladesh had no prior experience constructing such massive infrastructure without funding from multilateral donors, her plan was met with a barrage of skepticism from the nation’s economists as well as political opponents.
“Some people said we would always be beholden to others, but our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman taught us the importance of self-respect,” Hasina said, addressing a sea of people on Saturday.
Sheikh Rahman was Bangladesh’s founding father who led the movement to secede from Pakistan in 1971.
She declared, “This Padma Bridge is not only a construction site full of bricks and cement; it is a symbol of Bangladesh’s pride, honor, and ability.
“We have shown the world that we can.”
The Padma Bridge, which is around 68 kilometers (42 miles) from Dhaka, will serve as a gateway to the country’s southwest region and greatly shorten travel times between Dhaka and important districts in the area, including Khulna, Jashore, and Barishal.
It usually takes 15 to 22 hours to cover a distance of 180-300km (111-186 miles) between the southwest districts and Dhaka.
The Padma Bridge will prevent 2,620 vehicles from having to wait 187,727 hours each day for ferries, according to a research by the government-run Bridge Division. With the opening of the bridge, it is anticipated that 24,000 more vehicles than at present (2,620) will cross the river each day.
The study also pointed out that the economic impact of the bridge will help increase the annual gross domestic product (GDP) of the southwest region by 2.5 percent and the overall GDP of the country by more than 1.23 percent.
The bridge’s greatest advantage, according to economist Selim Raihan, who examined the bridge’s economic effects, is that it will link Bangladesh’s fishing and farming areas in the southwest with the Dhaka-Chattogram economic corridor, which he described as the country’s “lifeline.”