Wednesday, 6 July, 2022

Padma Bridge: Impossible made possible

  • Esaraf Hossain
  • 14th June, 2022 10:47:12 AM
  • Print news
Padma Bridge: Impossible made possible

Walking a path beset with obstacles and firmly confronting all conspiracies, Bangladesh has successfully constructed the Padma Bridge, the gateway to 21 southern districts of the country, with its own fund in a befitting riposte to the conspirators.

The much-hyped bridge will be opened to traffic on June 25 through a gala ceremony in Madaripur.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, an epitome of visionary leadership who remained unfazed in the face of adversity in the journey to materialisation of the dream of establishing the country’s biggest structure, will inaugurate the bridge.

However, the path was not a rosy one as the government had to encounter a lot of adversity, conspiracies and rumours from different vested interests from the beginning to accomplish the mission to construct the mega bridge, which once seemed impossible.

The whole saga began with the financing tussle with the World Bank back in 2012.

A section of the WB officials created confusion by raising allegations of corruption conspiracy in the much-talked-about Padma Multipurpose Bridge project. Vested interests from the country were also involved in conspiracy against the project.

The lending agency had urged the Bangladesh government to fulfil four conditions, including removal of then Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain and some Bridges Division officials, to get its funding for the project.

As the government failed to meet two of the conditions, it scrapped its committed $1.2 billion credit support in July 2012, saying it had proof of corruption conspiracy involving Bangladeshi officials, executives of a Canadian firm and individuals.

Finally, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina declared that the government itself would build the giant Padma Bridge from its own fund and the bridge is now complete as a proof of her firm determination.

As the construction work began, vested interests and a mainstream opposition political party tried to mislead the common people by spreading rumours through social media platforms like Facebook and YouTube that the construction work needed many human sacrifices and blood.

Police had to urge people not to pay heed to the rumours which said human heads and blood are required for the Padma Bridge piling work.

In a media release, the police headquarters had also spelled stern action against those who were trying to destabilise the country through spreading such rumours. 

Law enforcers had arrested a number of people on charges of spreading the rumours on social media that children were being abducted for sacrifice through beheading.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina had also ordered the authorities concerned to hunt down those who were propagating the unscientific, unrealistic and ridiculous idea.

At least three people were killed while five others got injured in the country after being beaten up on suspicion of being abductors.

Technical issues like soft soil problem on some pier points and natural problems like coronavirus pandemic and strong currents in the river during the rainy season also stood in the way of the bridge construction.

Alongside, several pillars of the giant Padma Bridge also came under direct hit by several running ferries mysteriously while its construction work was going on.

Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) had to shift the Banglabazar ferry terminal in Madaripur to another location as ferries collided with the pillars of the bridge several times.

On August 9 last year, Birshrestha Jahangir ferry plying the route hit the same pillar reportedly due to strong winds and currents in the river.

The frequent collisions prompted Obaidul Quader, road transport and bridges minister, and Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury, state minister for shipping, to visit the Padma Bridge.

Quader, while visiting the Mawa end of the bridge, told reporters that ferries hit pillars four times in a month. "It’ll be a mistake if we take the matter lightly or treat it as incapacity of the ferry masters.”

“We need to find out whether there’s any conspiracy behind it. I’ll request the Bangladesh Army [who is looking after the bridge's construction project] to look into the matter in depth."

While visiting the Shimulia end of the bridge, Khalid Mahmud Chowdhury said there was indifference to abiding by instructions necessary to avoid hitting pillars.