DHAKA: Bangladesh, the wonderful country of South Asia, is now on crucial transition from lower middle income to middle income country. Consistent achievement of impressive GDP growth over the past decade has put the country firmly on the highway of development.
At this take-off stage Bangladesh needs to pull together all its efforts and endeavors for the smooth advancement of several mega-infrastructure development projects which, when put to operation, will make Bangladesh the vibrant hub and development corridor of South Asia-South East Asia.
Over the last few years one must have noted the great courage and self-confidence of the government in adopting some major mega-projects concurrently. The physical implementation of some of these has already been launched and others are at various stages of pre-commencement.
This write up will try to have a look into these projects and the impacts that these will bring to national economy towards achieving the Sustainable Development Goals.
Padma Multipurpose Bridge: It goes beyond any new assessment what the Padma Bridge would bring to the people of Southern Bangladesh integrating it with the rest of the country and the neighboring countries. Linking Dhaka with greater Faridpur, Barisal and Khulna it will create direct links of Payra/Mongla ports with Chittagong.
Further development of Mongla port and creation of the third sea port at Payra would also facilitate use of these port facilities by land locked Nepal, Bhutan and eastern states of India. Even the facilities can be utilized by Myanmar and China. Four lane express highways and modern railway will link the Southern Bangladesh with the rest of the country and beyond. Government has also initiated process for setting up iconic satellite cities on the either bank of the bridge, an international airport somewhere around.
The implementation of the mega project had initial difficulties with major donors backing out for alleged corruption (not yet evidenced). Government had the courage for going ahead committing its own resources. The implementation of this mega project is now progressing smoothly.
The connecting roads on either bank are almost completed; the river training and main frame construction is proceeding smoothly with a target for opening the bridge by early 2019. The project for railway tracks, utility lines are also at matured stages.
Four Lane Highways: It is true that Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Mymensingh four-lane highway construction got extraordinarily delayed for various seen and unforeseen reasons. But these two major projects are now ready. PM Hasina is expected to open these officially for traffic soon. The works of Dhaka-Tangail four-lane highway is in progress and the works of Dhaka-Sylhet four-lane highway will start soon.
There are plans also for Dhaka-Chittagong elevated express highway. These four-lane express highways will not only facilitate speedy movements of the vehicles but also will eliminate the head on collisions on the highways which is a major menace. We hope all highways in Bangladesh will be having four lanes or more in a decade.
Traffic Congestion Management of Major Cities: Country wide major infrastructure development will definitely work in reducing urban-rural migration relieving major cities of excessive human concentration as businesses will start moving out to every nook and corner of the country. Still, capital Dhaka required some major transport infrastructures for easing the gridlocks.
Over the last few years some flyovers and sky roads have addressed the situation marginally but the most significant development is definitely the launching of Dhaka Metro Rail project. This coupled with elevated expressway and bus rapid transit, upon completion, would make major changes in traffic movement in Dhaka City. Government has also announced for implementation of City ring road, ring railway and river way communication.
For Chittagong city also similar initiatives are underway. We hope the successful implementation of the mega transport infrastructure projects will encourage foreign investors and private sector investors in Bangladesh to invest generously in the planned 100 specialized industrial zones.
River Tunnel and Railway Bridge: Karnaphuli River tunnel is another iconic project that the government has adopted. Linking north and south part of Karnaphuli River will open huge opportunities for industrial development of the port city. It will also link Cox’s Bazar through express road communication. This linkage can be extended to Myanmar and China in due course.
Government has given due emphasis of upgrading railway communications through introducing modern railway carriages, developing double lines, expanding railway linkage with Cox’s Bazar. It has proposed to construct a new railway bridge parallel to Bangabandhu Multipurpose Bridge over Jamuna River.
Payra Port and Matarbari Maheskhali Energy Hub: Payra Port development is another dream project of Bangladesh which, apart from relieving congestion in Chittagong and Mongla ports, will open avenues for huge regional trading facilities in South and South East Asia.
It will also facilitate development of coal port and LNG terminal for importing energy and setting up of imported energy based power plants. The entire region from far bank of Padma River Bridge to greater Barisal, Fardipur and Khulna region will have huge industrial development.
This will create job opportunities and economic development.
A comprehensive development plan has been initiated for Matarbari-Maheskhali axis of Cox’s Bazar for Coal Port, LNG terminals and power generation hub. Many sub-projects are now at various stages of development.
Roopur Nuclear Power Plant: Bangladesh with the assistance of Russian Government is setting up a major nuclear power generation project at Roopur. The works of implementation has entered business session. The first nuke power major would be available by 2021.
Sustainable energy security is another major development agenda that government is also working on. There are various issues and challenges as environment along with economy and energy are also prime consideration which needs addressing.
We hope all sensible citizens of Bangladesh realize what economic and social impacts all these mega projects will bring. These apart from creating opportunities for the citizens of Bangladesh would take the nation to an advanced economic life.
All are required to play their role from respective position in creating sustainable peace and stability.
Government must also work to integrate all stakeholders in the process of all mega projects development. We must not argue every development initiatives on the basis of perceived adverse impacts.
Perhaps lack of stake holders engagement at right time from project proponents are also an issue. Government must be careful about this.
BDST: 1411 HRS, JUN 27, 2016