Padma Bridge not just a structure

| Updated: June 25, 2022 21:29:28

Padma Bridge not just a structure

Building bridges over rivers, mighty or otherwise, is a routine affair. Scores of bridges, made of mortar, gravel and steel, have been constructed for decades across the world. Most are small and medium, and a few have greater width and stretch across a long distance. The Padma Bridge is one of the longest structures, the 122nd longest in the world, to be precise. It has certain unique features if viewed from the construction context and the method applied and tools used.

Yet the Padma Bridge is different from all other bridges built in this country and beyond. The Bridge is not just a 6.15- km steel and mortar structure resting on 41 piers that have their roots dug deep into the treacherous sand bed of the Padma, earlier called 'Kirtinasa'.

The bridge symbolises the courage and determination -- audacity also -- of a nation, deeply hurt by false accusations. Getting two banks of the Padma linked by a bridge was once considered impossible because not only of the river's ferocious nature but also its propensity to devour almost everything along its two banks.

Planners and engineers overcame the challenges that the river itself offered, as they designed the bridge that would materialise the dream of millions who had to make a time-consuming and perilous journey while crossing the mighty river for centuries.

Almost an immobilising shock came from the World Bank (WB) when it had reneged on the Padma Multipurpose Bridge financing deal alleging a corruption conspiracy. That was the most crucial moment as far as the fate of the project was concerned. Most people thought the fate of the cost-intensive project was sealed, for Bangladesh did not have the financial capacity to build such an enormous project on its own.

Deeply aggrieved by the WB's retreat, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took up the formidable challenge of building the bridge without external financial help. Her announcement took many by surprise. Sceptics also did not hide their doubts.

The financing has been smooth all through the PMB project life. There were cost and time overruns, primarily because of technical reasons that include design changes in some places and tough river training activities.

Now, the country has achieved an engineering feat by building a road-cum- rail-bridge over the river Padma. On the eve of the inauguration of the bridge, the Prime Minister thanked the people for extending their cooperation in the gigantic task of building the bridge. People must also be grateful to her for demonstrating extreme firmness and courage in the face of all adversities.

Finally, it is important to know how the bridge will contribute to easing transportation and boosting economic growth. Will it just facilitate the smooth transport of people and goods? Or do something more? Experts say the bridge will help boost the country's GDP growth by1.23 per cent. The movement of people and merchandise alone is unlikely to make that happen. The bridge is supposed to spur economic growth in the much-neglected south and south-western regions. But how will that happen? There should have been a broad-based growth plan for the regions in place by now. There is still time to accomplish the task. The government should embark on the preparation of a sound plan without any further delay.

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