Asian Development Bank (ADB) has estimated that the rate of Bangladesh’s gross domestic product (GDP) growth would increase by 1.2 per cent after completion of construction of the Padma Bridge, reports UNB.
The regional growth rate in the southwest region of the country will increase by 3.5 per cent due to the same reason, according to the bank.
Responding to queries through e-mail, Director General of ADB’s South Asia department Sultan H Rahman said estimates of the benefits accruing to road-users show an economic internal rate of return of 15-20 per cent, by using the conventional approach of estimating savings in vehicle operating and travel time costs.
He said that the bridge will have transformational impacts on the southwest region and the country as a whole.
The ADB Board of Directors approved Thursday its $ 615 million loan for construction of the multipurpose bridge across the Padma River.
This bridge is the first fixed river crossing for road traffic, linking the southwest of the country with the northern and eastern regions.
ADB will be the first donor agency or country to release fund for the Padma Bridge.
The loan for Padma Bridge is the largest project assistance that the Manila-based multilateral capital donor has provided to Bangladesh.
The southwest region has some of the highest poverty rates in Bangladesh because of the absence of a bridge across the Padma River — formed by the confluence of the Ganges and Jamuna rivers — that left it relatively isolated.
Currently passengers and freight are transported over the five-kilometer-wide river by ferries and other smaller vessels, which lack capacity and are frequently suspended during floods, fog and bad weather conditions.
The physical work of the bridge will include the construction of a two-level steel truss bridge over six-kilometer long, with a four-lane highway to accommodate road vehicles on top, and a lower deck with a single track railway to be added in future.
Twelve kilometers (km) of approach roads, along with toll plazas and service areas, will also be built, while dredging of the river and protection of the banks will be carried out.
The bridge, 6.15km in length, will connect 19 districts of the south-western part of the country with the eastern part, including the capital city, and it will be linked with the Asian Highway.
Sultan H Rahman said that the bridge is expected to become a drive for accelerating the pace of growth performance and reducing poverty for the southwest region.
Bridges in other regions, such as one built with ADB-Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA)-World Bank (WB) support across the Jamuna River linking the northwest to the east, have been major growth and poverty reduction drivers for the country. Similar benefits in the southwest region are expected with the completion of the Padma Bridge project.
“It will have wider sub-regional impacts, as it will form part of the proposed Asian Highway route that connects Asia to Europe.”
About managing the governance issues, while implementing the Padma Bridge project, he said they would follow its anti-corruption policy, which allows them to investigate projects for alleged corruption practices.
“If the Office of Anti-corruption and Integrity (OAI) determines that a party has violated ADB’s anti-corruption policy, sanctions may be imposed on the violating party, which may include reprimands and debarment,” said the director general of ADB’s South Asia Department.
He added there will be overall oversight by a panel of experts and the co-financiers’ monitoring committee on the project activities, including procurement.
The project’s technical assistance component will strengthen the executing agency’s capacity in both procurement and financial management. Procurement information will be disclosed on the executing agency’s website. Audit function of the executing agency will be strengthened.
“Implementing projects of that size will require close cooperation and monitoring between the government and development partners,” said Sultan H Rahman.
ADB is providing over 21 per cent of the total cost of nearly US$2.92 billion of the bridge. Besides, the WB, JICA and IDB are also financing the project.