Do we always feel a bit shy to praise someone? I don’t know whether any research has been conducted over the issue. There are lots of stories written by Syed Mujtaba Ali that we remember well. I was talking about the Padma Bridge. The Bridge has really been implemented. I saw it myself. Before and after the bridge construction, I witnessed the mockeries and criticism against Sheikh Hasina both at home and abroad. Since inception, it was being publicized that the Padma Bridge was built by Chinese people. Help can be taken from contractors of any country for the construction of any project. But that does not mean that the project was built by that country.
In the USA, I saw massive national flags of the country had been hanged in buildings from their roof to bottom. The silk screens were supplied from China. It was then a necessity. This is because of wave of nationalism, a country like the US made their national flags at a cheaper cost from the Chinese workers. Centering this, the BBC produced an extraordinary feature story. I fear the issue is being diverted. I can only tell that Bangladesh earned great respect from the world by building the Padma Bridge. It was not an easy task. The world consists of water and land. Only 29 percent of the earth consists of land, while 71 percent of it is covered by water. Human beings have accepted lands for their abodes. It has necessitated the communication system. And, bridges have been built for that communication system. Through the Padma Bridge, Bangladesh has been able to build a bridge for greater communication in the entire sub-continent. In the Asian highway, Padma Bridge has been a major factor for communication. Economic development of entire Asia will be implemented through Padma Bridge.
Moreover, there comes railway project. Once implemented, India, Myanmar and different countries will be benefited by the rail project. Trans Asian railway will pass through 28 countries. So, it is a major project. By successful completion of Padma Bridge, Sheikh Hasina virtually did an impossible task enlivening economy of this country as well as that of sub-continent inflicted by corona and badly impacted by Ukraine war. Before Jamuna Bridge, the people of North Bengal could not imagine that their communication with Dhaka will be so easier. Bangabandhu Bridge has appeared to be a blessing for the people of North Bengal. It is to be seen as to what role Padma Bridge plays for the people of south-western region.
We all know that 21 countries will be financially benefited by Padma Bridge. Because of the bridge, Dhaka and port city of Chattogram will be directly connected with Mongla Port and Benapole Land Port. Probably, due to this reason, some cement factories have been established in Mongla Port area. A special economic zone has been built on 205 acres of land. Different export-oriented industries, including RMG factories, have been built here. This has emerged as an ‘Export Processing Zone (EPZ).’ Mongla becomes an investment destination due to Padma Bridge. As per media reports, the President of Bagerhat Chamber of Commerce and Industries has built industrial units here by selling off his Chattogram factories. Padma Bridge has created a possibility.
It has been learnt from a book titled ‘Padma Bridge’ that the price of each bigha of land has been increased from Tk one lakh to 25 lakhs. A major prospect of tourism industry has been created. Khulna Chamber of Commerce and Industries has prepared a report on future development of southwestern region. It has been told that dynamism of the country’s second largest sea port of Mongla will increase by manifold. As to why, Payra is now being built as a deep sea port. Once completed, Payra sea port will be a boon for Bhutan, Indian southeastern states and East Nepal. Invaluable forex is being earned by exporting frozen fish and jute goods from Khulna. Because of Padma Bridge, the earnings will increase due to low transportation cost. There will be three benefits due to rail communication; inland goods transportation will be easier; communication will become easier for general people and goods from neighbouring countries can be imported at a lower cost.
From the book of Md Enayet Chowdhury, a teacher of the Institute of Water and Flood Management at BUET, I came to know about different information. He has narrated it in a simple language. Let us assume that a road enters Bangladesh from Myanmar. The condition of Bangladesh road is bad, but the Myanmar road is in good condition. If a truck enters Bangladesh then lots of problems will arise. The main problem will be the longer period for goods transportation. Moreover, there is a possibility of occurring accident, et cetera. The drivers who are accustomed of driving vehicles along bad roads, they will not face problems in this situation. But, if all of a sudden, a driver of any other country enters this road, he/she will face lots of problems. To get rid of them, international road network is a must so that all roads are built by maintaining their long-lasting capacity.
Asian Highway Network is such an international initiative. Thirty-two countries have agreed to connect their roads with the Asian highway in which Bangladesh, India, Sri Lanka, Pakistan, China, Iran, Japan and South Korea have been included. In this book, Enayet Chowdhury also said that there had been uncertainty over the Indo-Bangladesh route. The route has been changed by turning it towards Meghalaya through Shillong. In primary route map, the design was prepared using plain land what extends from Karimganj to Assam. Then it goes to Myanmar via Manipur. In another route map, the south-eastern region of Bangladesh has been connected with Myanmar. The problem is that this route passes through Rakhine State inhabited by Rohingya population. As to why, Myanmar government is not keen enough to take part in this project.
This time, during my Dhaka tour, I had an opportunity of attending a dinner party with Vikram Doraiswami, the Indian High Commissioner to Bangladesh. There Doraiswami too mentioned time and again about Padma Bridge. Keeping Padma Bridge in the forefront, Bangladesh is playing a leading role in sub-continental development. Sheikh Hasina deserves thanks.
The writer is a senior journalist based in New Delhi
Translated by Z A M Khairuzzaman