A farfetched dream comes true finally as the Padma Bridge, which speaks volumes about an epical effort for conquering a turbulent river and formidable hindrances, opens today to cheers.
The government, the partners and a brigade of consultants and engineers who took the challenge of making it happen describe it as a moment of glory in modern-day infrastructure building as the newly built mega-structure is expected to open a new horizon in the country's socioeconomic uplift.
Such hopes run high as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is set to inaugurate the largest and a unique bridge built over the mighty river Padma at a mega-ceremony, arranged to be displayed across the nation amid festivity.
The Padma Multipurpose Bridge is being seen as an iconic infrastructure that, besides establishing territorial linkage, is expected to create new socioeconomic prospects for people of 21 southwestern districts as well as of the entire country.
There have been great enthusiasm and festivity centring the inauguration of the much-cherished bridge as two sides of the unique infrastructure wore new looks.
People at in Munshiganj and Shariatpur, as elsewhere in the country, have long waited with joys and hopes for witnessing their dream come true.
Economists and experts observe that the bridge will give an impetus to the country's communitarian arena, thus contributing to the county's overall socioeconomic advances.
Bangladesh Bridges Authority (BBA), the executing agency of the finally estimated Tk 301.93 billion Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project, has completed all arrangements for inaugural ceremony dividing into five parts.
The Prime Minister is to address a citizens' gathering at Mawa site at 10 am with different professional groups, including foreign and national diplomats, attending.
She would then unveil a plaque at Mawa site and cross the dream bridge of her vision paying the first toll at Mawa toll plaza.
On the other side, the Prime Minister is scheduled to address a public gathering after unveiling another plaque on Janjira site. The joy rally is expected to draw over one million people.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is expected to unveil postal and commemorative stamps marking the occasion.
BBA officials say though all necessary arrangements have been completed, there is challenge to check Covid-19 situation. An official says arrangement to protect the inaugural podium from rain is also completed.
The stage decorated with the design of Padma Bridge is set and the entire pandel has been built to accommodate over 3,500 people.
Bridge Division also completed invitation according to their list.
An official said Bangladeshi and foreign diplomats, government officials, professionals from physicians, singers, artists, intellectuals and political leaders are expected to join the function.
He also said the World Bank President and the Country Director as well as ex-PM and BNP Chairperson Begum Khaleda Zia and Nobel laureate Prof Dr Muhammad Yunus were also invited.
The World Bank Dhaka office confirmed that the Country Director will join the citizens' gatherings. But the Bridge Division has yet to get any confirmation from others.
Sources said for last-minute security checking, the Home Minister, IG Police, Army Chief and heads of other security and intelligence forces visited the Padma Bridge site Friday.
Asked about overall arrangement and his feelings at the moment of inauguration, Project Director M Shafiqul Islam said the moment was yet to come to cheers now as lots of pressures centering inaugural-ceremony arrangement exist on the project office.
He mentioned that the Covid situation started deteriorating and also affected some of the project colleagues.
"We have still mental pressure. Do not have time to express joys and cheers now, not in a position to express so,'" he told the FE over phone, adding the Padma Bridge "is certainly an achievement for all of the team".
Officials say some 10,000 people worked on the project sites to build the main bridge, do river-training work, construct approach roads on both sides, and for resettlement-site development. Some 120 engineers and staff of the PMB project have been engaged since the beginning.
Besides, some 3,000 consultants from national and international levels, including a 10-member of Panel of Experts, supported the costly project at various levels. People from 14 different countries also worked in making the highly challenging project successful.
However, the project has passed through challenges after the first funding arrangement under the leadership of the World Bank was withdrawn in 2012.
The then bridge secretary, Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan, and project's senior engineer Quazi Ferdous were sent to jail for several months to satisfy the WB which demanded resignation of the then Communications Minister, Syed Abul Hossain, raising allegations against him of possible corruption in the selection of Construction Supervision Consultant in September 2011.
Initiative to build the bridge was taken first in 1998-99 through pre-feasibility study. The Padma Multipurpose Bridge project finally got the go-ahead from the ECNEC in 2007 after the feasibility study in 2004-05, which was revised with the increase in the current 6.15-km length and two-tier options in 2011.
The PMB project reached the current stage after two more revisions till 2021 with its cost escalating to Tk 301.93 billion.
After the WB exit from the project, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took the courage to build the challenging bridge with state's own funds.
Under the government's own arrangement, challenging job of main bridge and river-training work was carried out by two Chinese companies. China Major Bridge Engineering Company built the steel-truss composite bridge against its financial proposal of Tk 121.33 billion. The RTW carried out by Sinohydro Corporation Limited at Tk 87.07 billion is yet to complete.
Abdul Monem Ltd-Hygenic Corporation of Malaysia did the work on Mawa and Janjira approach roads along with service-area development.