The southwest zone of Bangladesh is separated from other parts of the country, especially from the north central zone where the national capital of Dhaka is located, by the Padma river. Although there have been improvements and developments of the road network of the southwest zone, links with the rest of the country across the Padma river are still via ferries. Transport capacity of ferry services is very limited, and waiting time at ferry ghats is about one hour for buses/light vehicles and two hours for trucks. In addition, riverbanks of the Padma river are very unstable and the river width changes frequently, which results in approach ghats being temporarily depending on the seasons. Therefore, expansion of existing ferry terminals is difficult due to these unstable river conditions. Moreover, there is an urgent need to replace existing dangerous ferry/launch operations between Dhaka and the southwest region by more safety and reliable surface transport system. Overloaded vessels frequently sink in this waterway route passing through near the risky-prone zone of turbulent confluence of the Padma and Meghna rivers.
The social, economic and industrial underdevelopment of the southwest zone, which encompasses Bangladesh's second major port, Mongla, its third main city, Khulna, and the inland port at Benapole, is in part due to difficult access across the Padma river to the rest of the country. If a bridge to cross the Padma River is constructed, it will certainly strengthen the linkage between the southwest and north central zones. A highway bridge, in particular, will improve and enhance the freight and passenger transportation between Dhaka and major points in the southwest zone and contribute substantially to the regional development of the southwest zone as well as to national economic growth.
The TA Loan will assist the Government in preparing the detailed engineering documents and procurement of the Padma Bridge construction.
|Project Rationale and Linkage to Country/Regional Strategy
The benefits of the TA Loan will be to facilitate project preparation for an investment loan to construct Padma Bridge connecting the economically depressed southwest zone to the economically more advanced eastern zone of the country. It will minimize the technical uncertainty and ensure the implementation readiness of the follow-on Loan.
The Padma bridge will be one of the large-scale infrastructure projects in Bangladesh and its construction and operation will result in significant impacts on the various sectors of the economy at the national and regional levels. The distance of nearly all major destinations in the southwest region from Dhaka will be reduced by 100 km or more, which will have tremendous savings in passenger time, commodity movement time, operation and maintenance costs of vehicles, increased life of vehicles, reduced import bill on fuels, and reduce transport costs of passengers and commodities. With the bridge, capital inflow will increase promoting industrial and commercial activities and increased economic and employment opportunities for the local populations. The people of the region will have better access to healthcare facilities and latest health technologies available at Dhaka. Easier communication will help expanding better education and training facilities and skill development will take place ensuring availability of quality manpower/workers. Export of skilled workers will increase wage earnings. River bank protection will reduce bank erosion and check incidences of increased vulnerability and poverty among erosion-induced displaced population. During construction activities, local unemployed people will get employment and some increased commercial activity will help income generation of the locals. The country will be physically integrated through the fixed link resulting in reduced economic disparity and deprivation. An estimation of multiplier effects on the investment on the Padma bridge shows that the bridge will increase the national GDP growth rate by 1.2% and the regional gross product in the southwest region by 35%, and generate additional employment opportunities of 743,000 person-year that corresponds to 1.2% of the total labor force of Bangladesh.
The southwest region has one of the highest poverty rates in the poverty stricken Bangladesh. About 42% of the population in the country in March 2004 was living below the absolute poverty line, while in Khulna division in the southwest, the poverty incidence was 46.4% compared with that in Dhaka of 33%. The poor in the project area will reap immediate benefits from the construction of the bridge in the form of employment in construction, additional employment in relocated related exercises, and subsistence allowances and other benefits under resettlement, and increased trading income during construction. In the long-term, however, the poverty reduction impact of the bridge is more significant as a larger share of economic benefits generated by the bridge will accrue to the poor that their income shares in GDP.
One key assistance spelled out in ADB's Bangladesh country strategy and program 2006-2010, is that support would be provided for the development of the Padma bridge, building on lessons learned from the path-breaking Jamuna Bridge Project.