Socio-economic impact of Padma Bridge : A new lease of life for many

They got the land and necessary cash for building a dwelling for them in the planned and protected residential area developed by the government near Mawaghat under Louhajang in Munshiganj

Landless Nur Mohammad Nuru’s family, with their three children, now resides in a house on a 2.5-decimal plot in Josholdia Resettlement Site (RS) developed for those affected by the construction of Padma Bridge.

They got the land and necessary cash for building a dwelling for them in the planned and protected residential area developed by the government near Mawaghat under Louhajang in Munshiganj.

“We could not think of owning a piece of land and a house before. But now we have one and are happy here,” says Nuru’s wife Salma Khatun, her face lit up with a smile, as she can now dream of providing her children with proper education.

Their 12-year-old daughter Meem is studying in class six at Josholdia High School outside the RS. Their six-year-old daughter Jannat is studying at the primary school inside the RS while their young son Shaown is trying his hand at cloth business in the locality.

A day labourer, Nuru could hardly manage to make both ends meet before but after receiving the compensation from the government, he can afford to save some money after working as a vendor at the ferry terminal.

The government has constructed a total of seven residential sites spending Tk165.62 crore for the local residents affected by acquisition of land for construction of Padma bridge and essential river training work.

All the civic amenities have been ensured inside every RS including a healthcare centre, a primary school, a marketplace, a mosque, electricity, central water supply system by installing deep tube-well and an overhead water tank, drainage, adequate roads, a central pond and creation of 25 percent greenery by two plantations, each on one acre of land.

Nuru’s family obtained the RS plot as they earlier lived in a rented house on the land acquired for Padma bridge construction and had no alternate land for construction of a homestead.

Similarly, land owners whose lands were acquired by the government and had no other land for dwelling were also awarded plots in RS.

For the last few years, a socio-economic transition is taking place in the area, mainly because of the cash disbursement against land acquisition for the Padma bridge project.

Till October 2018, the value of land acquired in and around Padma bridge site on both banks of the river in three districts of Shariatpur, Madaripur and Munshiganj stood at Tk2358.77 crore.

The government disbursed Tk638.98 crore among the affected families till February 2019.

According to Padma Multipurpose Bridge Project (PMBP) data, some one lakh people of 16,340 families have been affected directly by acquisition of land for the bridge construction. Of them, 2906 plots ( of three different sizes of 2.5 decimal, 5.0 decimal and 7.5 decimal) were developed in seven RS for allocation among the affected families.

Besides, those who did not qualify for plot in RS were provided compensation for their respective land, homestead and construction of new dwelling in adjacent areas, called host village.

The government has expanded roads, schools, mosques and marketplaces under host village improvement plan to help local people cope with the additional pressure of population.

Meanwhile, Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) has partnered with a non-government organisation (NGO) for implementing resettlement scheme and providing life skills training for the affected people so that they can engage in various income generating activities.

Md Shamsul Haque, livelihood development specialist of Echo-Social Development Organisation, said one member from each of 16,340 affected families would get the opportunity to have life skills improvement training. “Training is currently going on,” he told Dhaka Tribune.

Member of Parliament from Madaripur-1 (Shibchar) Constituency Nur-E-Alam Chowdhury Liton said that majority of the affected families utilised properly the cash received against their land from the government.

“Many of them (affected people) have found new business. They are sending eligible family members abroad as workers, educating their children and enjoying newly established healthcare and communication facilities. All these changes came because of the Padma bridge. People’s outlook about life has been changed to positivity,” Liton stated.

He claimed that Shibchar upazila’s economy was growing rapidly as value of land went up due to government acquisition.

“It has impacted people’s living status positively. People are getting high value against their land, which were hardly arable. Same things happened in all localities where land acquirement took place for the Padma bridge construction,” he continued.

Research Director of Centre for Policy Dialogue Khondaker Golam Moazzem sees transition in the living status of people of the localities affected by Padma bridge construction as intermediary impact of the implementation phase.

“The government took various supportive measures during the implementation phase. The current changes are due to these measures, which are short-term. The overall impact will begin once the project is completed right away,” he observed.

He said Padma bridge’s socio-economic impact would be much higher in volume and value after its successful implementation as this bridge would link the south-western districts with the capital city and other regions.

“Businesses and agriculture will grow rapidly, which will contribute to the country’s gross domestic product significantly. It is difficult to estimate it right now in terms of value,” he noted.

According to PMBP Director M Shafiqul Islam, the approved cost of implementation of Padma bridge stands at Tk30,193 crore (local currency) till March 2019.

The work of the main bridge is scheduled to be completed by the end of this year and it is expected to open for traffic in December 2020.

Mohammed Monirul Alam

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