|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
Bangladesh is a riverine country, and the major rivers flowing through it are the Ganges, Jamuna, Meghna, and Padma. Historically, this river system has split Bangladesh into (i) the northwest zone, bordered by the Ganges and Jamuna rivers; (ii) the east zone, which is east of the Jamuna River, where the capital, Dhaka, and the major port, Chittagong, are situated; and (iii) the southwest zone, isolated by the Padma and Ganges rivers. The Padma River is formed by the confluence of the Ganges and the Jamuna rivers. The river, about 5 km wide with braided, turbulent, and shifting flows, has been a major transport barrier between the southwest zone and the northwest and east zones. At present, passengers and freight are transported across the river by ferry and, to a lesser extent, by launches and rowboats. Their services are grossly inadequate in terms of both capacity and service level. Existing ferry services involve long and unpredictable waits at terminals lacking basic amenities. Flooding, fog, and other difficult weather conditions routinely cause services to be suspended or cancelled.
The completion of the Jamuna bridge in June 1998 improved the connectivity of the northwest zone to the economically important east zone, thus accelerating the former's socioeconomic development and alleviating poverty in the country as a whole. Similar impacts are expected with the opening of the proposed Padma bridge. The bridge is expected to have subregional impacts by forming part of the Asian Highway Route A-1, the main Asian Highway route connecting Asia to Europe.
The pre-feasibility study conducted with government financing in 1999 2000 established the technical and economic viability of a bridge across the Padma River. A more comprehensive feasibility study undertaken in 2001 2005 by the Japan International Cooperation Agency (JICA) reaffirmed the technical and economic viability of building the bridge at the Mawa Janjira crossing. During the feasibility study, the government requested the Asian Development Bank (ADB), Japan Bank for International Cooperation, and World Bank to extend their support for constructing the bridge through a cofinancing arrangement similar to that adopted for the Jamuna bridge. The development partners came to an understanding that (i) the project is too large to be financed by a single aid agency, (ii) the exemplary development partner coordination and cooperation achieved for constructing the Jamuna bridge should be replicated for the Padma bridge, and (iii) subsequent project preparation would be carried out jointly.
In 2005, ADB provided technical assistance (TA) to complement JICA's feasibility study, which confirmed the technical and economic viability of the Padma bridge. The TA aimed as well to develop a public private partnership (PPP) for the project, which would have required several preparatory measures and conditions such as (i) creating an enabling environment for what is a new concept in Bangladesh through a comprehensive fiscal, financial, and legal policy framework, (ii) building capacity in the executing agency; and (iii) implementing a vast public communication plan. The TA therefore did not recommend pursuing PPP. However, it is envisaged that the operation and maintenance of the bridge will involve the private sector.
ADB processed a TA loan of $17.6 million in 2007 to finance (i) consultants to prepare detailed design and help the Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) with tendering, (ii) an engineering review to confirm the selected deliverables of the design consultants, and (iii) a panel of reputed international and national experts to provide advisory services to BBA. The World Bank is assisting, under a $3 million project preparatory facility, with (i) an independent review of social and environmental safeguard documents, (ii) financial due diligence, (iii) the strengthening of BBA, and (iv) additional financing for the panel of experts.
The government accords very high priority to the project, which is included in ADB's 2010 2012 country operations business plan for Bangladesh as a firm loan for 2010 processing. Since mobilizing the design consultants, ADB, the Islamic Development Bank, JICA, and the World Bank have fielded joint missions to deal with various aspects of project preparation.