Dhaka, Bangladesh – Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has inaugurated a landmark bridge over the turbulent Padma River after years of delay as a consequence of allegations of corruption that pressured the World Financial institution to stroll away from the practically $4bn mega mission, which is able to 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 so far which has been dubbed a “image of nationwide delight” – 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 highway and rail, thereby chopping journey time significantly.
It often 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 stage together with a single-track railway on the decrease stage.
With a building price of $3.87bn, this is among the largest mega tasks Bangladesh has ever undertaken and all the quantity is financed by the Bangladesh authorities.
In 2012, the World Financial institution had withdrawn from a $1.2bn mortgage settlement for the mission following allegations of corruption. Following swimsuit, different donors, together with Asian Improvement Financial institution (ADB) and Japan Worldwide Cooperation Company (JICA), additionally pulled out of the mission.
Hasina, who spearheaded efforts to construct the bridge, famously declared that her authorities would self-fund the mission.
Her determination 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 assist from multilateral donors.
“Some folks mentioned we’d at all times be beholden to others, however our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman taught us the significance of self-respect,” Hasina mentioned, 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 just isn’t a pile of brick and cement, however an emblem of Bangladesh’s delight, honour and skill,” she mentioned.
“Now we have 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 ft) deep into the river mattress, Padma Bridge has the document of getting the deepest piling amongst all of the bridges on the earth.
The bridge mission director, Shafiqul Islam, advised Al Jazeera that the water that flows at Mawa level (one finish of the bridge) each 20 seconds is the same as the full quantity of water utilized in Dhaka metropolis a day.
“After Amazon, Padma has the strongest present [roughness in water] on the earth. So we needed to go for piling that’s the thickest and deepest on the earth,” he mentioned.
Mentioning one other distinctive function of the bridge, Islam mentioned, fashionable friction pendulum bearings (FPB) have been used to assist the metal superstructure and the concrete pier basis.
“Such bearings have by no means been used wherever on the earth earlier than they usually can stand up to a magnitude 9 earthquake,” he mentioned, including that the bridge bearings can maintain greater than 10,000 tonnes, exceeding the restrict of every other construction on the earth.
Islam mentioned as they confronted a plethora of engineering challenges, the price of the mission rose to nearly 3 times the preliminary estimate of $1.2bn.
“Apart from, the devaluation of Bangladeshi forex Taka has performed a serious function in elevating the associated fee, as greater than half of the mission’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 cut back journey time between Dhaka and main southeastern districts, together with Khulna, Jessore and Barishal.
It can 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 pressured to journey on ferries or launches that make gradual journeys. Perishable items transported to Dhaka from southwestern districts by truck usually 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 keeping with a examine 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 autos. It’s estimated that with the opening of the bridge, about 24,000 autos will cross the river day by day – a major soar from the present variety of 2,620.
The examine additionally identified that the financial affect of the bridge will assist enhance the annual gross home product (GDP) of the southwest area by 2.5 % and the general GDP of the nation by greater than 1.23 %.
Economist Selim Raihan, who carried out a examine on the financial affect of the bridge, mentioned its primary profit is that it’s going to join southwestern districts – recognized 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 to date,” he advised Al Jazeera.
“Readymade garment sector – Bangladesh’s most outstanding business and primary export earner – has remained utterly absent from these districts.”
“I imagine, traders and industrialists shall be to take a position there that may spark an enormous financial progress.”