With the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, the Bangladeshi economy is expected to flourish due to road and rail connectivity between the capital city and the southwest region.
he Padma Bridge is one of the most expensive projects Bangladesh has ever undertaken, coming in at around USD 3.87 billion. It has significantly reduced travel time by linking 21 districts in southwest Bangladesh with the capital, Dhaka, through road and rail. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina officially opened the bridge on June 25. The 6.15-km-long Padma Multipurpose Bridge, Bangladesh’s longest bridge, symbolizes not just the country’s resolve but also its expanding economic potential and prosperity. It also represents an important turning point in the history of independent Bangladesh.
The bridge was initially intended to be constructed by the Hasina administration with assistance from the World Bank, Asian Development Bank (ADB), and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA). However, the World Bank abruptly stopped supporting the project in 2012, blaming governmental corruption. As a result, other investors stopped supporting the initiative. It negatively harmed both the country’s and the Awami League’s public perception. For the people of Bangladesh as well, it was a setback. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina chose to self-fund the project, despite economists and opposition leaders’ warnings to the contrary. The completion of the Padma Bridge, thus, has come to represent pride and dignity in the country.
The Padma Bridge will primarily aid Bangladesh’s economic development. According to economists, the country’s GDP will increase by 1.3% to 2% annually. The bridge project will add an additional 1% to the GDP after the railway portion is finished. According to Zahid Hossain, a lead economist for the World Bank, the Padma Bridge will reduce travel time for about 27% of Bangladesh’s population by 100 km, boosting commerce and agriculture and raising the GDP of the nation. According to some analysts, the bridge will help reduce poverty, increase trade, tourism and industry, and open up employment prospects in the southwest of the nation. The Padma Bridge is also expected to positively affect the surrounding area. It will make connections better. A Motor Vehicle Agreement for the Regulation of Passenger, Personal, and Cargo Vehicular Traffic was signed by Bangladesh, Bhutan, India, and Nepal (BBIN) in 2015. The BBIN Network will receive the connectivity it needs from the Padma Bridge. The journey from Dhaka to Kolkata via Jessore will be shortened by half once the Padma Bridge Rail Link project is completed, increasing the country’s exports. Additionally, it will reduce the cost of online services, power, and gasoline, increasing the area’s current trade.
The bridge’s development will have a significant economic effect on the country. In 2010, it has been reported by Maunsell that the bridge’s Reward Ratio (BCR) was 1.6% and the Economic Rate Of Return (ERR) was 18%. The BCR will be 2.1% and the ERR will be 22%. In other words, it is financially advantageous to have built the bridge. There will be a two- to four-hour reduction in travel time between Dhaka and the 21 southern districts. In addition to facilitating the supply of raw materials and industrialisation, the direct connection to the capital will promote trade and commerce growth. Agriculture will advance tremendously. Higher commodity prices will be good for farmers.
Along with the design specialists, the World Bank’s independent consultants and the consulting firm for the Bridges Team evaluated the bridge’s economic impact. Both Mongla and Payra seaports will be operational. Domestic and foreign visitors would swarm to new and historic tourist destinations including Kuakata Beach in the southern region, the Sundarbans, Bangabandhu Mazar in Tungipara, and old and new resorts at Mawa and Jazira as the tourism industry will prosper.
The entire economy of the nation will be impacted by the overall output of the transport, trade, and local industrialisation centred around the Padma Bridge as well as by GDP growth. Based on the current base year, a BRAC research predicts a 5% contribution to GDP in 31 years.
A Testament to Bangladeshi Resilience
According to Md Alamgir Kabir, Head of the Bangladesh Cement Manufacturers Association, the main structure of the bridge was built with 2.28 lakh tonnes of cement. The Padma Multipurpose Bridge was constructed by almost 4,000 engineers. More than 500 of them were Bangladeshis. Faculty members from the Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET), who
PADMA BRIDGE WILL REDUCE TRAVEL TIME FOR ABOUT 27% OF BANGLADESH’S POPULATION BY 100 KM, BOOSTING COMMERCE AND AGRICULTURE AND RAISING THE GDP OF THE NATION.
were active in numerous significant international projects, have also been onboarded in the project. The absence of equipment was the hardest problem for construction. Instead of large-scale bridges, several of our local contractors have brought in the equipment required to build roadways. Now, these bridges can be constructed by our engineers and constructors. Five businesses can work together to bring the required equipment in. The transfer of technical expertise and technology is sufficient. The confidence of our local engineers has increased significantly as a result of the construction of the Padma Bridge. Thus the bridge is not only playing a vital role in bolstering the economy but has also equipped and enhanced the Bangladeshi talents with global engineering expertise.
Against All Odds
The Padma River has an excessive amount of silt and may be the second-fastest moving river in the world after the Amazon. Soil tests were conducted along the route during a pre-feasibility study on the Mawa-Janjira site, and it was discovered that the soil was weak in some places due to the presence of clay. Clay is typically thought of as weak soil, however, this clay was exceptionally firm. Even then, the engineers did not construct the piles where there is clay in accordance with engineering sciences. Each pier is supported by six piles or steel foundations. Even though international engineers claimed that utilising even six or seven piles would not make a difference, another pile has been added under the piers for safety’s sake.
Experts performed grouting on a short pipe next to the main pile when they insisted on load testing the piles. In the case of bridges in other nations, this technique has not been applied frequently. Another difficulty was installing the bearing system that would assist the bridge to withstand earthquakes. The bearing dampens the structure’s horizontal movement. Despite the fact that it was only implemented recently, it has not been widely adopted in other nations.
Expert Views on This Megaproject
The Padma Bridge, which will bridge the final geographic barrier in the nation, will be a significant catalyst in the realisation of the government’s Vision 2041, according to Prof.
Mustafizur Rahman, distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD). Of the 21 districts in total, 13 of them have a higher average level of poverty than the other parts of the country. Prof. Mustafizur pointed out that the bridge will promote economic inclusivity and contribute to reducing poverty in the districts. The CPD distinguished fellow predicted that the inauguration of the Padma Bridge will result in a 1.23% boost in the GDP. “The districts in the southwest will boost the GDP by an additional 2%. Over the course of the bridge’s economic life, it will generate gains of more than USD 10 billion, or, 2.5% of the USD 450 billion GDP. As a result, the advantages will outweigh the cost of building by at least three and a half times.” Prof. Mustafizur emphasised the need for investment linkage in order to realise the bridge’s full potential. “7.5 lakh new employment will be created if we can create an investment environment in 17 proposed special economic zones in 21 districts.”
Professor of civil engineering Shamsul Hoque at BUET asserted that the corridor will stimulate economic growth and urged safeguarding of the advancement. He referred to the bridge and roadways as the development’s “backbone” and claimed that if unplanned structures are permitted on both sides of the road, the development will not be sustainable.
According to Commerce Minister Tipu Munshi, Padma used to be a destroyer of human structures but will now turn into a maker of fame. The nation’s new success tales will be woven with the aid of the bridge. He commended the Prime Minister for exercising audacious leadership in putting the mega-bridge project into action.
Salman F. Rahman, the adviser to the prime minister on private investment and industry, remarked, “The audacious decision to build the Padma Bridge has proven our capability. Before the first Padma Bridge is finished, we are now requesting a second one. Now everybody is praising us.
Even though finance for the Padma Bridge became quite challenging after the World Bank withdrew, according to Agrani Bank Chairman Zaid Bakht, the government has been able to properly address the problems. He also emphasized the contribution of Agrani Bank to the project’s foreign exchange needs.
The Padma Bridge, according to Jashim Uddin, president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce & Industries (FBCCI), was a risky move on the prime minister’s part. Today, it looks to be a symbol of great fortitude because the bridge’s construction was successful despite the strain.
Abdus Salam Murshedy, a member of parliament, claimed that the bridge will alter the nation’s communication system by relieving pressure on Chattogram Port.