PADMA BRIDGE: Our Money, Our Pride, Our Victory
by Nadeem Qadir in Dhaka
Indeed Bangladeshis are overjoyed after the 6.13 kilometre dream project, the Padma Bridge, linked the two sides of the mighty Padma River, but it is indeed a blow on the face of the World Bank and others who had been critical from the very start about the plan, which has now opened a new vista for this South Asian country.
It deserves a salute to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for taking the challenge and returned the insult to those who had done so to her country who tried in vain to see the Padma Bridge Project never took off. It has given added meaning in our month of Victory – Bengalis can achieve anything with an able leader like a proud and visionary leader like the premier.
From the shame of “bottomless basket” and “Miskins (beggars),” to a proud nation with its head high is no mean achievement. One can wonder who else could have achieved so much in about 10 years. Critics will be there, but a real statesman knows how to give the proper reply to those, including jailed Bangladesh Nationalist Party chief Khaleda Zia who made a mockery of the project, meaning she could never gauge the strength of the Bengalis or lacked the vision to take Bangladesh forward.
Thus, I propose that the names of every individual from Bangladesh or any other country involved from the first to the last must be engraved across the 41 spans of the Padma Bridge to honour them as a symbol of everlasting show of gratitude for these people. We easily forget our heroes and remember a few like a merry-go-round year to year.
Vikram Goraiswamy, the Indian envoy in a Dhaka, tweeted after his meeting with the Bangladesh’s most successful leader coinciding with landmark development in Bangladesh’s infrastructure from a war ravaged country in 1971.
“The Prime Minister is one of the tallest leaders today:very inspired by her determination to realize Bangabandhu’s vision of a developed Bangladesh. She was also most gracious, warm and kind. Deeply honoured to serve in a rising (flag) Bangladesh under her leadership and PM Narendra Modi.”
Mahfuz Anam, the editor of the leading Daily Star and known as the prime minister’s critics, in a front page commentary on Friday writes: “Historian Yuval Noah Harari, of bestsellers “Sapiens” (2011) and “Homo Deus” (2016) fame, talks about the importance of stories in human history which have the power, he says, to transform the fortune of peoples — turning groups to tribes, to communities, to nations and, to civilizations and make them achieve wonders.
For us, Bangladesh is such a story of that has made its people achieve wonders. To that extraordinary story a new and inspiring chapter has been added titled “Padma Bridge”, whose unquestioned author is Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina. It was Bangabandhu’s “political will” that contributed so much to Bangladesh’s birth.
Many thought her decision was reckless and feared diversion of our scarce resources from more urgent sectors. But Sheikh Hasina held firm. Whether the bridge that cost Tk 30,193 crore, originally estimated to cost Tk 10,161 crore, is fully justified is a question to be determined by auditors. For the PM it was the national prestige that held supreme and nothing else mattered.
Similarly, it is Sheikh Hasina’s political will that lies at the core of the Padma Bridge becoming a reality. It was her single-minded determination to build it and the courage to overcome many of the vicissitudes that befell it on its way that were the key to the nation witnessing what it did yesterday — the completion of physical structure of the bridge.”
“Let the Bangladesh story energise us and the world bestow confidence on us,” Mahfuz Anam concluded.
The Asian Age daily published an interview on Friday of Dr. Atiur Rahman, central Bangladesh Bank’s former Governor and an eminent economist.
He said “World Bank raised false allegations about graft in the Padma Bridge project a few years ago which was rejected by the Bangladesh government under the firm, courageous and capable leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
Bangladesh afterwards decided to construct the bridge with its own money. It has uplifted Bangladesh’s honour to the whole world. The construction of Padma Bridge is soon going to be completed and it’s a symbol of our pride and dignity.”
“It has become possible by means of the bravery of Sheikh Hasina which she has inherited from her dad, Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.At least 1% GDP will be added to the country’s economy by Padma Bridge,” Dr. Atiur Rahman told the daily.
Bangladesh is now considering another dream project — a bullet train that will take only 55 minutes to travel from capital Dhaka to the southeastern port city of Chottogram.
Omar Selim Sher, a Canada-based Bengali retired economic professor and analyst of international Affairs had this to say on the end of the major work of the Padma Bridge: “Sheikh Hasina’s steadfastness, determination, and perseverance paid off today as one of the main milestones has been completed to fulfil her regime’s dream. It is the main legacy that she will leave a permanent mark in the history of Bangladesh.
A long dream of millions of Bengalis was fulfilled by laying the last span of the dream Padma Bridge in the victory month of December. It is the best gift on the eve of the 50th Anniversary of victory day on 16 December to the people of Bangladesh.
The golden harvest of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s bold move made the entire 6.15 km of the Padma Bridge visible. It is an iconic wonder of Bangladesh and the world.”
Nationwide roads and highways have seen major developments with four lanes, an expressway and an eye-ctaching road through a haor or a wetland ecosystem in which waters become turbulent during the monsoon with rain and run off from the hills, becoming a favourite tourist destination.
The 6.15km long bridge has 41 spans which would be installed on 42 poles — 21 poles at Mawa point and other 21 poles at Jajira point.
The bridge, whose construction began in December 2014, is expected to be opened in 2021.
The construction of the main bridge is being carried out by China Major Bridge Engineering Company, a Chinese contractor, while Sino Hydro Corporation, another Chinese company, is working on river management.