Since its official inauguration, last 25 June, the national phoneme Padma Bridge has been crashing social media and news sources as a wonder to behold. Be it political leaders showing off or the ordinary population enjoying a weekend there, the goal that felt unattainable for so many years now seems within reach.
Beginning on Shaky Grounds
The Padma Multipurpose Bridge is a project that was undertaken as a landmark for achieving the “Golden Bengal of Bangabandhu’s Dream” when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina first formed the government in 2009. Since then, this project has faced a conflicted path of progress, to say the least. After the World Bank and various financial organizations like ADB, JICA, and IDB stepped back from their agreement to invest, citing corruption, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took an audacious step and announced that they would finish the Padma Bridge project with the country’s own funds.
Not surprisingly, this announcement brought a lot of controversy on national and international grounds. But after years of on-and-off construction by world-famous engineers and construction workers and facing the backlash of a global pandemic, the bridge of dreams is finally open to the public.
All in Our Own Funds
The Padma is considered one of the most challenging rivers in terms of its mighty water flow and erosive waves. Controlling this overflowing river took a huge amount of planning and dedication, all of which were funded without taking huge loans from any international sources. Not to mention, according to an article published in The Diplomat, the Padma Bridge was one of Bangladesh’s most expensive construction projects, coming in at close to $3.87 billion, all in its own money.
Now that people have flooded social media with their wonders about the Padma Bridge, it feels like a proper time to evaluate the purpose of this project from an actual development perspective.
Like with every massive project, a group of critics keep complaining that investing this amount of money just to build a bridge is rather wasteful for a developing country like ours. For them, a skim through Padma’s tragic and destructive history —such as the massive river erosion of hectares of land since 1967 and the stats of economic expectations— might give another perspective. With this project, the mighty Padma would become not only a much more manageable asset but also an incredible prospect for the economy of Bangladesh in the foreseeable future.
Evaluating the “Success” of the Padma Bridge
This investment will pay off in a large amount, according to the economists of Bangladesh.
Prof. Mustafizur Rahman, a distinguished fellow at the Centre for Policy Dialogue (CPD), stated that the bridge will play an enormous role in the country’s economy by alleviating poverty in the poorer districts connected to the whole nation by this bridge, also facilitating economic inclusivity. In Bangladesh’s 21 southwestern districts, it would help nearly three crore people. Better connectivity will link these areas to the development centres. They might serve as avenues for commerce. This will open up career and income options.
To profit from such infrastructure, the decentralization of opportunities and services will be essential. People won’t swarm the cities as much if the villages have improved amenities like reliable energy, internet, education, and healthcare.
In an article published in The Business Inspection, it’s stated that the country’s total GDP growth is estimated to increase by 1.23 per cent annually, while the southwestern region’s GDP growth will climb by 2.5 per cent with the completion of the megaproject.
Also, this developed transport system will be a game changer for more successful international trade. According to the “Padma Multipurpose Bridge project,” Chief Coordinating Officer Abu Sayeed Md Masud, the location of the bridge was chosen because it will eventually be connected to the Trans Asian Railway and Trans Asian Highway. Moreover,
Communication and Network
Bangladesh Telecommunications Company Limited (BTCL) has laid fibre-optic cables on its lower deck to reduce the time taken for data to travel between the capital and the submarine cable landing station in Kuakata. So, as another trademark results in the networking and globalizing sector, the capital is supposed to have a higher speed internet connection after the completion of this bridge.
The Other Side of the Coin
But all this investing in a bridge, while the entire country is still chained to the curse of poverty and hunger, seems like a luxury right now. Ironically, the inauguration of this massive project is happening while the northeast part of the country is being horribly flooded. Funnily enough, the response of the local governments to this horrible crisis is terribly mismanaged.
Bangladesh is the largest delta on the planet. So this flooding situation is also proof of poor planning and a lack of safety measures from the relevant authorities. While millions of dollars are being invested in this Padma Bridge project, for years, proper investment in the water transport systems and disaster planning has been put on hold with the excuse of “not enough budget”. And to add fuel to this fact, many are claiming this project, and the efforts behind it are not much more than the government’s attempt to cease the international pressure regarding false democracy in the upcoming election of 2023.
Only time will tell if this tide of development is actually validated as a mass step toward a democratic, progressive country or just a showpiece to numb the clashes of in-depth corruption. But keep in mind that this is the first massive national project that Bangladesh has done without relying on any international resources. And not to mention the advanced approach to transportation, communication, and cultural integration that this bridge will bring to light. Hence, the pride and wonder that the Bangladeshi people feel over the completion of a single project are completely validated in the broader sense.
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