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World media depict Padma Bridge as symbol of nation’s pride, capacity

Published : 26 Jun 2022 10:10 PM | Updated : 27 Jun 2022 02:36 PM

A number of international media including the Washington Post, Associated Press, Bloomberg, Al Jazeera, ABC News and NDTV covered the grand opening ceremony of Bangladesh’s biggest self-financed Padma Bridge depicting it as symbol of pride and capacity of the Bengali nation.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opened the 6.15 kilometer multi-purpose bridge that connects the country’s 21 south and southwestern districts by road which is likely to boost GDP by 1.2 to 2 percent.

Bloomberg reports headlined “Bangladesh Unveils Bridge Shunned by World Bank a Decade Ago” mentioning in its sub-head that the multi-purpose project is seen as personal victory for Sheikh Hasina and the bridge estimated to boost GDP by more than 1 percentage point.

“In 2012, the World Bank canceled a $1.2 billion loan to build Bangladesh’s longest bridge citing corruption, which the government said was never proven. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said days later her government would build the bridge with its own funds,” reads the report by Arun Debnath published in the US-based media Bloomberg. 

It reads: “Eight years after work began, Hasina on Saturday inaugurated the bridge spanning more than six kilometers (3.7 miles) across the Padma River that cost $3.87 billion. It will connect 80 million people -- half the country’s population.”

Qatar-based media Al Jazeera reports on Padma Bridge with headline “PM Hasina opens Bangladesh’s longest bridge over River Padma” and sub-head “Experts say the 6.15km bridge, built at a cost of nearly $4bn, will connect the impoverished southwestern region to the capital.”

“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has inaugurated a landmark bridge over the turbulent Padma River after years of delay due to allegations of corruption that forced the World Bank to walk away from the nearly $4bn mega project, which will connect Bangladesh’s capital Dhaka to the underdeveloped southwestern region of the country,” reads the report by Faisal Mahmud in Al Jazeera.

“The opening on Saturday of the eponymous Padma Bridge – Bangladesh’s longest bridge to date which has been dubbed a “symbol of national pride” – marks a momentous occasion in the South Asian nation’s history,” it reads.

In 2012, the World Bank withdrew from a $1.2bn loan agreement for the project following allegations of corruption. 

Following suit, other donors, including Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA), also pulled out of the project.

Hasina, who spearheaded efforts to build the bridge, famously declared that her government would self-fund the project, according to Al Jazeera report.

Her decision faced a battery of scepticism from the country’s economists as well as political opponents since Bangladesh did not have any experience in building such mega infrastructure without financial support from multilateral donors.

“Some people said we would always be beholden to others, but our Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman taught us the importance of self-respect,” Hasina said, addressing a sea of people on Saturday.

Sheikh Rahman was Bangladesh’s founding father who led the movement to secede from Pakistan in 1971.

“This Padma Bridge is not a pile of brick and cement, but a symbol of Bangladesh’s pride, honour and ability,” she said. “We have shown the world that we can.” 

Terming it as an “engineering marvel”, experts say the construction of the bridge is a great feat as the Padma is the most “treacherous and unpredictable” river after the Amazon River of South America. 

China’s state-owned Railway Major Bridge Engineering Group (RMBEG) was tasked to lead the construction of the bridge with the help of about 1,200 Bangladeshi engineers.

With steel piles being driven 122 metres (400 feet) deep into the river bed, Padma Bridge has the record of having the deepest piling among all the bridges in the world.

The bridge project director, Shafiqul Islam, told Al Jazeera that the water that flows at Mawa point (one end of the bridge) every 20 seconds is equal to the total amount of water used in Dhaka city a day.

“After Amazon, Padma has the strongest current [roughness in water] in the world. So we had to go for piling that is the thickest and deepest in the world,” he said.

The Washington Post carried a report of AP by Julhas Alam headlined “Bangladesh marks opening of country's longest bridge” and it mentioned comments of economists who say the Padma Bridge will increase Bangladesh’s gross domestic product by an additional 1.3% per year, adding to robust growth projections from the Asian Development Bank that predict Bangladesh’s $465 billion economy will grow by 6.9% in 2021-22, and 7.1% in 2022-23.

Popular Indian media NDTV carried the reports of Indian national news agency PTI reports with headlines “PM Sheikh Hasina Inaugurates Bangladesh's Longest Rail-Road Bridge” saying the inauguration of the Padma bridge carries a lot of significance as the structure was built entirely with domestic financing, defying speculations by some financial analysts if Bangladesh could mobilise the fund depending on domestic resources.

American broadcast network ABC News also carried the news agency AP’s report with headline “Bangladesh marks opening of country's longest bridge”.

Highly circulated prestigious Indian newspaper The Hindu reported with headline “India congratulates Bangladesh as Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina opens Padma bridge”.

“The Padma bridge will not just help the internal connectivity of Bangladesh but will also improve trade and logistics between India and Bangladesh,” said the Indian mission in a congratulatory message, reads the report.

Indian newspapers the Indian Today and The Economic Times also covered the mega event of Bangladesh.