Honorable Minister for Communication, Mr. Syed Abul Hossain
Secretary, Bridge Division, Mr. Md. Mosharraf Hossain Bhuiyan
I would like to thank the Honorable Minister and the Bangladesh Bridge Authority for organizing this joint press briefing. As coordinating donor, the World Bank is speaking today on behalf of all development partners contributing to this mega-project, including the Japan, Asian Development Bank and Islamic Development Bank. Let me take this opportunity to thank Government for the trust placed in the World Bank, and our development partners for their excellent collaboration in all aspects of preparation.
As development partners, we are honored to be part of this transformational project. The Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project is challenging, yet, in many ways, it is a unique project in the world based on its size and expected economic and social impact for the Southwest Region.
When I visit the project site, I am reminded that nine hours or more will be saved in travel time from Dhaka to most destinations in South West Region once the bridge is completed. Talking to neighboring communities, I am moved by the hope of local populations that the bridge will make a difference in their daily lives. As with Jamuna Bridge before it, Padma Bridge will undoubtedly transform people’s lives through access to markets and services, leading to greater and faster poverty reduction in the Southwest Region.
Indeed, we are not only engaged in building a bridge. We are working jointly with Government to prepare a holistic development plan for the Southwest Region in order to maximize the benefits from bridge and unlock the economic potential of the Southwest Region. Follow-on investments in railways, roads and ports will be necessary to enhance connectivity within the country and with neighboring countries.
Under the leadership of the Minister and the Bangladesh Bridge Authority, the development partners are moving on a fast track to expedite construction of the Bridge. Preparation has been proceeding quite quickly for a project of this size and complexity, and has required harmonized decision-making by all development partners. Together we have made significant progress in all aspects of project preparation, including pre-qualification of prospective bidders for the main bridge, selection of consulting services for supervision of construction works, design of the project works, and preparation of environmental management and social action plans (EMP and SAP). In order to reduce time and transaction costs, the development partners have harmonized procurement procedures to a large extent, to allow efficient procurement of large contracts like construction of main bridge.
We give highest priority to addressing social and environmental issues related to construction of the bridge. Like any other large-scale infrastructure project, the construction of Padma Bridge will require relocation of some households and businesses. Significant progress has already been made in implementation of the resettlement action plan in order to acquire resettlement sites for affected households. The Bridge Authority is now completing the environmental management plan for these sites.
The Development Partners carried out a joint mission in March to review these environmental and social safeguard issues. We reached a shared understanding of work required to complete the environmental management plan and social action plans. Although progress has been good, some gaps remain in order to complete the social action plan and environmental management plan. These include further strengthening the mechanism to redress grievances, outlining a targeted communication strategy and enhancing the capacity of the Bridge Authority to execute the project and fully implement the social action plan and environment management plans. An independent consultant is currently working to finalize the Environmental Assessment and Environmental Management Plan for the project, with expected completion by June 2010.
With respect to Government’s timetable for accelerated construction of the bridge, let me highlight two prerequisites: i) selection of consulting services for supervision of construction work ; and ii) strengthening management capacity of the Bridge Authority. Furthermore, implementation of the resettlement action plan for the whole project would be a prerequisite to starting project works on the ground.
We development partners are committed to supporting timely construction of Padma Bridge. We have enhanced our financial support to close the financing gap, making it possible to move forward with project preparation activities. While speed is desirable, we will not compromise the quality of preparation for what will be the largest infrastructure asset in Bangladesh. This includes technical designs, contracting arrangements which are crucial for ensuring quality, and environmental management and social actions plans—all of which ensure proper implementation of the project and extend its benefits to all stakeholders, even households and businesses obliged to relocate.
Regular communication, information sharing and consultations with stakeholders are crucial for this mega-project. This joint press conference today is part of a longer-term initiative on our part to ensure regular communications from the Development Partners and Government. The Bridge Authority has already done extensive consultations with local people in the project area. As the project progresses, we will continue our outreach to communities in the project area and to stakeholders at the national level.