AKM Kamal Uddin Chowdhury
Bangladesh’s economy will get a huge boost with the expected “industrial revolution” of the southwestern districts when the long-cherished ‘Padma Multipurpose Bridge’ opens to traffic within a year or a bit more.
The main structure of 6.15 kilometer Padma Bridge became fully visible on Thursday with the installation of its last span.
“Once it is completed fully and opened to traffic within a year or a bit more, the economy of Bangladesh is likely to get a huge boost with the expected “industrial revolution” of the southwestern districts,” experts said.
The installation of last span has also paved the way for connecting the less-developed southwestern region of Bangladesh with eastern half including the capital and the port city.
The 41st span, the last one placed on the pillar, has made the bridge fully visible connecting it with approach roads on both sides, while other related components are being put in to place steadily.
The bridge which is expected to open to traffic sometime next year or in 2022 has created a high hope for leading towards an intense market integration within the economy.
Keeping the august occasion in front of mind, politicians, business leaders, economists and civil society members have observed that economic activities in the southwestern part are increasing gradually and as a result, many industrialists from home and abroad are purchasing lands in several districts, especially in Faridpur, Madaripur, Shariatpur, Bagerhat, Gopalganj and Khulna.
Once it is completed, they hoped that the bridge will initiate an “industrial revolution” in the country’s 21 southwestern districts.
They opined that the Padma Bridge will connect many of the South and Southeast Asian countries and contribute immensely to communication, trade, industry, tourism and many other sectors in various ways.
For taking the advantage properly, they urged the government to outline a “proper strategy” that will be on offer, particularly for the southwestern region.
Expressing his heartfelt gratitude to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, Deputy Minister for Water Resources AKM Enamul Hoque Shameem said the dream of the country has come true for the visionary and dynamic leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
“The bridge will contribute to increase the country’s GDP growth to double digit,” said Shameem, also a lawmaker from Shariatpur.
The experts said the double-deck Padma Bridge, with road and rail tracks, is expected to contribute around 1.3 to 2 percent to the annual GDP growth, reduce poverty and increase economic activities of the people of the neglected southwestern region.
Terming the construction of Padma Bride as a “tremendous achievement” for Bangladesh, eminent economist and former Bangladesh Bank governor Mohammad Farashuddin said the bridge will play a great role in employment generation, alleviation of poverty and industrialization in the southwestern region as well as the entire country.
Research Director of the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD) Khondaker Golam Moazzem said the bridge is expected to contribute around 1.3 percent to the annual GDP growth, but the regional growth will be more.
The noted economist said the great impact of the bridge will be employment generation and poverty reduction of the 21 districts, especially ultra-poor in the region, including Barguna and Pirojpur, he added.
He urged the government to ensure other facilities properly, including electricity, gas, for encouraging local and foreign investors to set up industries in that region.
Moazzem laid emphasis on taking a “coordinated plan” to speed up the development activities of the region by protecting environment.
“We’ve to take a proper plan for reaping benefits at the earliest possible time … the government with private partnership should give emphasis to agro-based industries in the southwestern districts” he added.
Moazzem also said after completion of the bridge, a huge demand for employment will be created in those districts. “The government should emphasize on creation of skilled manpower to meet the demand.” he opined.
The economist said small businesses have to be given more priority in the southern part’s economic zones to create more employment, while the government should purchase products from small businesses too.
Dhaka Chamber of Commerce and Industry (DCCI) President Shams Mahmud said the Padma Multipurpose Bridge will bring the power for industrialization at the doorsteps of the common people and thus support industries of various scales and dimensions to flourish in the region.
“Significant impacts are expected to take place in international trade between neighbouring countries such as India, Nepal, Bhutan, and Myanmar,” he added.
President of Khulna Chamber of Commerce and Industry Kazi Aminul Haque said the Padma Bridge will ensure a smooth and permanent or all-weather road link over the mighty Padma River to connect with the largest market (Dhaka city).
“By ending the era of long wait at ferry ghats and reducing river crossing time, the bridge will save travel time and bring remarkable improvement of accessibility to and from other important cities and ensure major facilities in the opposite side of the Padma river,” he added.
Aminul said the Padma Bridge is expected to put significant impacts not only on the domestic or local economy, but also on promotion of international trade between neighboring countries such as India, Nepal and Bhutan.
He informed that a lot of investors form home and abroad are showing their keenness to set up factories in the region by taking advantages of the multipurpose bridge.
The Khulna chamber president said the bridge will also connect Mongla port and Payra port with the capital and it can also act as a “ground-breaking installation” for regional connectivity and trade.
He hoped the bridge will play a vital role in employment generation and alleviating poverty in Dhaka, Khulna and Barishal divisions.
Aminul urged the government to quickly identify the sectors which could benefit the most and match them with districts in the southwestern region ensuring the best conditions for each, particular industry, in order to gain inclusive growth for attaining a developed country status by 2041.
President of the Brihattar Khulna Unnayan Sangram Committee Sheikh Mosharraf Hossain informed that the demand of the land in that area is increasing rapidly as many investors from home and abroad are purchasing lands to set up industries there.
“The bridge will play a significant role in employment generation in the southwestern districts. Besides, a connectivity may be created with India, Nepal and Bhutan with this bridge,” he added.
Mosharraf hoped that the bridge will contribute at least 2 to 2.50 percent to the regional GDP.
The construction work of the long-awaited Padma Bridge started in December 2015 with government own fund, and the first span (superstructure) was installed on September 30, 2017.
All the 41 spans have already been installed and the 6.15-km long bridge has become fully visible. The construction of all approach roads on both sides of the bridge, having 41 spans and 42 pillars, has been completed, while the work of other components is going on steadily.
Project Director of Padma Bridge Md Shafiqul Islam said the construction work of the main bridge has been completed up to 91 percent and overall project construction was finished 82.5 percent till December 6.
“The construction work will complete in 2022,” he added.
Shafiqul said the bridge is expected to enhance regional trade and collaboration along the Asian highway and the Trans-Asian railway network.