Crossing Bangladesh’s Padma River, the world’s third largest, has always been a challenge. Often a tiring and sometimes dangerous journey due to unreliable and limited ferry connections, there are regularly long waits for overcrowded boats and ferries.
The lack of connectivity has prevented timely and effective access to medical care, education, and has also hindered mobility and economic activity. The proportion of the population below the poverty line in the south west region is about 5% higher than the national average. Primarily due to lack of connectivity, the region economically lagged behind the rest of the country.
Jute Trader Imam Hossain Dhali lost his elder brother while attempting to cross the river for medical treatment. “70% of the patients with serious illness die on the road to Dhaka. If there was a bridge then the patients could reach doctors in the capital faster..”
Trucks and buses sometimes have to wait for days a ferry so they can move people and goods from the South West to economic centers such as Dhaka and Chittagong. Even when there’s no backlog, the journey to Dhaka often takes over 4 hours with almost half of the journey taken by the river crossing.
Truck Driver Monir Hossain waited for a ferry for two days and noted that he would feel much safer and more secure if a bridge is built. “I loaded my truck yesterday at Satkhira and reached here around 1 am in the night. I have no idea when I can avail the ferry. But if the bridge was there, by now I could have reached my destination in Chittagong, unloaded my truck and even returned home.”
In order to improve connectivity and access for Bangladeshis and to boost opportunities, the World Bank approved a US $1.2 billion credit for the Padma Multipurpose Bridge which is expected to unlock the potential of nearly 30 million people, over 1 out of 4 Bangladeshis that live in the Southwest region of the country.
The World Bank’s largest project to date in Bangladesh, the bridge will be 6.15 kilometers long, have four lanes, and will include rail and gas lines and will reduce distances from most of the major destinations in the south west region to Dhaka by approximately 100km.
The bridge will connect the two sea ports of the country. The bridge is expected to revive the Mongla port which is now operating at 20 percent of its capacity due to the current long travel time required to reach Dhaka or elsewhere. Padma Bride will also establish the missing link along the Asian Highway hence enhancing the regional connectivity.
Through retroactive financing, the World Bank has already financed $60 million for environmental and social actions to ensure that families in the construction zone have land, homes, livelihoods and community assets for improved welfare. The 14,000 families who needed to relocate have received compensation. The development of the resettlement sites is underway.
Quality and Transparency
Given the paramount impact the project will have on the lives of millions of people, the World Bank is partnering with the Government of Bangladesh and other development partners to ensure that the highest quality standards are maintained from start to finish of the bridge. The Government of Bangladesh and the World Bank agreed on a jointly developed Governance and Accountability Action Plan that aims at integrating good governance in project design, enhancing supervision to guarantee quality and ensuring oversight and transparency for greater accountability to the people of Bangladesh.
To enhance transparency, the project will adhere fully to Bangladesh’s Right to Information Act, and implement a multifaceted communications strategy, including information sharing through the project website, newsletters and radio and television.
Accountability will be strengthened through third party monitoring by an independent panel of experts, community-based ‘accountability meetings’ to review the social and resettlement action plans and appointment of an independent Project Integrity Advisor reporting directly to the Prime Minister.