The interview of Dr. Jamilur Reza Choudhury, one of Bangladesh’s top experts in communication and infrastructure, revealed Bangladesh’s enormous infrastructure challenges and potential solutions to overcome them.
The Daily Star published the interview with Prof Choudhury, which took place in July 2019 as a posthumous tribute to the late professor.
According to the professor, Bangladesh’s geography presents a challenge itself; Bangladeshis have to cross rivers to travel from one place to another, and transportation relied primarily on riverways and railways.
The high construction cost is the primary barrier to building these critical infrastructures. Because Bangladesh is a low-lying area and prone to flooding, its roads and railways need to be built on embankments, which adds to the cost.
Additionally, the design of these surface structures must also be strong enough to withstand earthquakes and other hazards.
The government has also built important bridges that would improve their transportation network. While some have of these bridges, have reduced travel times in the country such as the two bridges: the Second Meghna Bridge and the Second Gumti Bridge.
However, some bridge constructions would sometimes encounter structural deficiencies, which would need more strengthening work.
The government has since added important bridges to improve the country’s transportation network and shortened travel times. However, some of these bridges will be structurally deficient, and which would require further strengthening work.
The construction of the Padma bridge exemplifies Bangladesh infrastructure woes
The Padma bridge, known as the Padma Multipurpose bridge in Bangladesh, will be its longest with a total length of 6.150 kilometers upon completion. The bridge will connect the country’s southwest to its northern and eastern regions and is expected to boost its GDP by 1.2%.
However, the bridge is the most challenging construction project in the history of Bangladesh.
Construction of the project experienced significant delays due to allegations of corruption, which led the World Bank and other donors to withdraw their commitment and pushed Bangladesh’s government to fund the project (Court throws, 2017).
The bridge was expected to open between November to December 2020. However, according to Dhaka Tribune, as of writing this article, the bridge is still in its completion stage and scheduled to open to traffic by June 2022.
Padma Bridge’s construction extended its four-year deadline because of the many challenges that the project encountered, said Prof Choudhury.
First, the project requires new construction and engineering techniques to cope with the unique geographical condition of the river. Riverbed movement and river scouring are major construction challenges.
Second, the project would need additional funds to hold the river into place. Approximately USD$ 1 billion is invested in river training in Janjira and Mawa banks to keep the river in its current position.
Third, soil tests revealed that the bridge’s foundation would sit on clay layers, which presents enormous challenges for engineers to ensure that the bridge’s foundation can sufficiently carry the bridge’s entire load and withstand river fluctuation, grouting, and other hazards.
According to Prof Choudhury, redesigns and adjustments to the plan caused delays, but the good news is that the government has resolved all the challenges.
Dhaka’s traffic problems
To address congestion problems in Dhaka, the World Bank, in partnership with the government, launched a Strategic Transport Plan (STP) for 2005-25. The plan includes constructing Massive Rapid Transit (MRT) and Bus Rapid Transit (BRT) networks.
Construction has started and is causing substantial traffic congestions in the city. With the additional lines added to Dhaka’s transport network, completing the STP, which would at least take 12 years, will significantly improve the traffic situation in Dhaka.
The present bus route situation is also a problem in Dhaka; competition between bus operators taking passengers is causing traffic blockage and serious road accidents.
Prof Choudhury admits that Bangladesh’s transport infrastructure weaknesses hinder the country from achieving its development goals and discourages foreign investments.
Overcoming these weaknesses is a big challenge for the country and would entail a major transformation in its governance and policies surrounding infrastructure planning, development, and implementation.
PHOTO CREDIT: Padma Bridge by Pinu Rahman – Own work, CC BY-SA 4.0, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=97131134