May 29, 2023, 2:06 am

Hasibul Aman

2022-07-03 17:00:08 BdST

Padma Bridge to create new economic lifeline

Padma Bridge has opened up a new horizon for the country’s economy by creating the potential for another economic lifeline linking the southern part of the capital city.

Currently, the Dhaka-Chattogram highway connecting the Chattogram seaport is considered the lone economic lifeline for its port connectivity and economic activities around the highway.

But analysts say the highway linking Padma Bridge has the potential to grow more as it will connect three ports--Mongla seaport, Payra seaport and the Benapole land port. Besides, it will be a part of the Asian Highway.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina formally opened the much-coveted bridge to traffic on June 25 to facilitate a direct road link between Dhaka and 21 southern districts, also opening a new window of economic opportunity. The mega structure is expected to add 1.23 percent to the GDP growth.  

For the new economic corridor, the government will construct a 236km expressway from Faridpur to Kuakata via Barishal to improve Payra port connectivity and promote tourism around Kuakata sea beach.

The expressway will have four lanes excluding two dedicated service lanes like that of the Dhaka-Bhanga expressway. The government is spending Tk 18.67 billion to acquire 302.71 acres of land for constructing the expressway. The work has seen some progress as well, official sources said.

A 55-km seamless expressway has already been constructed from Dhaka to Bhanga, Faridpur to get the benefit of the Padma multipurpose bridge.

Once in operation, the under-construction 169km Dhaka-Jashore Padma rail link project is also expected to spur economic activities as it will establish a direct Dhaka-Kolkata rail connectivity apart from the link with the three ports.

The Padma bridge will revive the country’s second-largest seaport--Mongla port as it has drastically cut Dhaka-Mongla travel time from 9 to 12 hours to only 3 hours.

It will also save 7-8 hours of travel time from Mongla-to Chattogram port. The time saving is going to be a game-changer for Mongla port as businessmen will increasingly be taking interest in the southern port.

As a result, the potential economic corridor along the Dhaka-Kuakata-Jashore-Khulna-Mongla highway is going to be turned into the second lifeline of the economy, according to economic analysts.

In less than a decade, it is going to be a lucrative destination for local and foreign investors for industrialisation like Dhaka-Cumilla-Mirsarai-Chattogram-Anowara-Matarbari-Cox’s Bazar-Teknaf, they say.

The increased activity at Mongla Port will lower the pressure on Chattogram Port and container and cargo handling at Mongla port will be much quicker and easier.

Earlier, traders had to wait for hours at ferry ghats for carrying goods from southern districts to the capital Dhaka or Chattogram. Padma bridge has added a new dimension to goods carrying.

Meanwhile, woven and knitwear exporters have started communication with the authorities for investing in the southern region. Besides, some big companies have also expressed interest in investing near Mongla port, official sources said.

Mongla Port Authority sources said the port has the capacity of handling 1,500 ships and some 1 lakh containers per year, but at present only half of the capacity is being utilised.

The port authorities are now working to enhance their capacity further to 3,000 ships handling capacity by 2025 as exports and imports through the port will increase manifolds after the construction of the Padma bridge.

The frozen fish of greater Khulna and jute exports may also see a boost while the easier road communications will enhance investment at Mongla EPZ as industrial raw material will come there by road instead of the sea.

Besides, new industries will be set up surrounding the Payra port which is being constructed according to a long development plan of the government.

A lion’s share of international trade between Bangladesh and India takes place through Benapole port in Jashore. The Padma Bridge will shorten the Dhaka-Benapole distance by around 93km. at the same time, the bilateral trade through the Bhomra port of Shatkhira will increase as well.

The revenue from Benapole port is expected to rise one and a half times more from the existing Tk 60 billion per year as transport time and cost will be saved a lot.

Currently, only one EPZ out of eight is located at Mongla port. There is a plan to set up two more EPZs at Jashore and Patuakhali, which will increase investment in export-oriented industries and create more jobs.

In addition, Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA) plans to set up four economic zones at Mongla, Gopalganj, Madaripur and Payra port area. Two years ago, the government decided to set up the handloom industry at Shariatpur and Madaripur.

BSCIC has four ongoing projects at Munshiganj, including the plastic industry, printing industry, chemical industry and Active Pharmaceutical Ingredient (API) industrial park.

Besides, it has a plan to set up new industrial parks at Faridpur, Khulna,, Narail, Magura and Kotalipara, Gopalganj.

Economist Prof Mahbub Ali said: “The highway connecting Dhaka with Mongla, Payra and Benapole port will act as an economic corridor after the completion of Padma Bridge, which will be a stimuli for the national economy.”

He said the government has created the backbone of the economy with the construction of bridge and highway, adding that it will also bring about dramatic change to the southern tourism industry.

However, he warned against the haphazard development of the private sector in the corridor, which he thinks won’t sustain the development. He also suggested implementing the government projects quickly to get quick benefits from the corridor.

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