Dhaka, Bangladesh – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has inaugurated a landmark bridge over the turbulent Padma River after years of delay attributable to allegations of corruption that compelled the World Financial institution to stroll away from the practically $4bn mega venture, which can join Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka to the underdeveloped northwestern area of the nation.
The opening on Saturday of the eponymous Padma Bridge – Bangladesh’s longest bridge thus far which has been dubbed a “image of nationwide satisfaction” – marks a momentous event within the South Asian nation’s historical past.
The development of the 6.15km (3.82 miles) bridge started in November 2015 to attach 21 districts of the nation’s southwestern area with Dhaka through street and rail, thereby chopping journey time significantly.
It normally takes 15 to 22 hours to cowl a distance of 180-300km (111-186 miles) between the districts of the northeast area and Dhaka.
The double-layer metal truss bridge incorporates a four-lane freeway on an higher degree together with a single-track railway on the decrease degree.
With a building price of $3.87bn, this is likely one of the largest mega initiatives Bangladesh has ever undertaken and your complete quantity is financed by the Bangladesh authorities.
In 2012, the World Financial institution had withdrawn from a $1.2bn mortgage settlement for the venture following allegations of corruption. Following go well with, different donors, together with Asian Improvement Financial institution (ADB) and Japan Worldwide Cooperation Company (JICA), additionally pulled out of the venture.
Hasina, who spearheaded efforts to construct the bridge, famously declared that her authorities would self-fund the venture.
Her choice confronted a battery of scepticism from the nation’s economists in addition to political opponents since Bangladesh didn’t have any expertise in constructing such mega infrastructure with out monetary help from multilateral donors.
“Some folks stated we might all the time be beholden to others, however our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman taught us the significance of self-respect,” Hasina stated, addressing a sea of individuals on Saturday.
Sheikh Rahman was Bangladesh’s founding father who led the motion to secede from Pakistan in 1971.
“This Padma Bridge is just not a pile of brick and cement, however an emblem of Bangladesh’s satisfaction, honour and talent,” she stated.
“We have now proven the world that we will.”
An engineering marvel
Terming it as an “engineering marvel”, consultants say the development of the bridge is a good feat because the Padma is essentially the most “treacherous and unpredictable” river after the Amazon River of South America.
China’s state-owned Railway Main Bridge Engineering Group (RMBEG) was tasked to guide the development of the bridge with the assistance of about 1,200 Bangladeshi engineers.
With metal piles being pushed 122 metres (400 toes) deep into the river mattress, Padma Bridge has the document of getting the deepest piling amongst all of the bridges on this planet.
The bridge venture director, Shafiqul Islam, instructed Al Jazeera that the water that flows at Mawa level (one finish of the bridge) each 20 seconds is the same as the overall quantity of water utilized in Dhaka metropolis a day.
“After Amazon, Padma has the strongest present [roughness in water] on this planet. So we needed to go for piling that’s the thickest and deepest on this planet,” he stated.
Mentioning one other distinctive function of the bridge, Islam stated, fashionable friction pendulum bearings (FPB) have been used to help the metal superstructure and the concrete pier basis.
“Such bearings have by no means been used anyplace on this planet earlier than and so they can stand up to a magnitude 9 earthquake,” he stated, including that the bridge bearings can maintain greater than 10,000 tonnes, exceeding the restrict of some other construction on this planet.
Islam stated as they confronted a plethora of engineering challenges, the price of the venture rose to nearly thrice the preliminary estimate of $1.2bn.
“Moreover, the devaluation of Bangladeshi forex Taka has performed a serious position in elevating the fee, as greater than half of the venture’s expenditure has been paid in overseas forex.”
Why a major construction?
Situated some 68km (42 miles) from Dhaka, the Padma Bridge will work as a gateway to the nation’s southwestern area and can considerably scale back journey time between Dhaka and main southeastern districts, together with Khulna, Jessore and Barishal.
It’s going to additionally slash the gap between Dhaka and Bangladesh’s second-largest seaport, Mongla, by 100km (62 miles).
The mighty Padma separates the southwest area from Dhaka and individuals are compelled to journey on ferries or launches that make gradual journeys. Perishable items transported to Dhaka from southwestern districts by truck typically rot as a result of on the lengthy journey that may typically take 22-24 hours as a result of lengthy tailback in ferry stations.
In response to a research by the government-run Bridge Division, the Padma Bridge will save a complete of 187,727 hours of ready for ferries per day for two,620 automobiles. It’s estimated that with the opening of the bridge, about 24,000 automobiles will cross the river day-after-day – a major bounce from the present variety of 2,620.
The research additionally identified that the financial affect of the bridge will assist improve the annual gross home product (GDP) of the southwest area by 2.5 p.c and the general GDP of the nation by greater than 1.23 p.c.
Economist Selim Raihan, who carried out a research on the financial affect of the bridge, stated its major profit is that it’s going to join southwestern districts – identified for fishing and agriculture – to the financial lifeline of Bangladesh – the Dhaka-Chattogram financial hall.
“As communication and transportation over Padma River had been solely reliant on ferries, a lot industrialisation didn’t happen within the southwestern districts thus far,” he instructed Al Jazeera.
“Readymade garment sector – Bangladesh’s most outstanding trade and major export earner – has remained utterly absent from these districts.”
“I consider, buyers and industrialists will likely be to take a position there that may spark an enormous financial progress.”