Padma Bridge: Changing lives and landscapes in southwestern Bangladesh

1986

Published on February 12, 2023
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Saiful, who used to be a van-puller, now sells ‘fuchka’ (street food) near the Padma Bridge.

He now earns significantly more than he did previously – thanks to the boom the locality has seen in tourism since the Padma Bridge opened in June 2022. Many day labourers, like Saiful, are taking advantage of the positive change in the area and have gotten involved in informal tourism – earning a good living.

Apart from the rise in tourists visiting various attractions in the country’s southwestern region – facilitated by improved communication thanks to the bridge, a large number of people are arriving just to see the Padma Bridge, a modern infrastructure marvel.

Many hotels, restaurants, resorts, and parks have been built near the bridge. Many have changed professions in the hope of earning more.

Numerous hotels and restaurants have been built in the Naodoba area of Jazira upazila, under the Shariatpur district, according to UNB’s Faridpur correspondent. Several tourist attractions have been developed in Faridpur district’s Bhangar Char Rasta Mor, according to him.

“I came here with my daughter because she wanted to see the Padma Bridge,” said Naimul Islam, from Faridpur. “We went to the nearest restaurant after sightseeing.”

“I set up a restaurant, for the first time, in the area,” Md. Tarikul Islam, an owner of a restaurant in the Naodoba area adjacent to the bridge, said. “Every day, people from across the country come here. They go to the restaurants after visiting the bridge,” he added.

He also said hotels are being constructed for visitors.

“The economy of this region will get a massive boost, all thanks to the Padma Bridge,” Md. Kabirul Islam Siddiqui, an editor of a local daily Nagorik Barta, said. “Many new jobs will be created for locals.”

Golam Maola, a visitor, said hotels and restaurants are being constructed through individual effort. He called for a government project to develop tourist areas in the region.

Md. Abul Kashem, associate professor of Alfadanga Adarsha College, said tourism in the south and southwestern regions will see major improvements. “This region has a lot of potentials to become a thriving tourist destination,” he said.

Padma Bridge is also contributing to easing local business operations and drastically reducing travel time.

The bridge has collected a total of Tk 476.57 crore in toll till February 2, 2023 – since it opened to traffic on June 26, 2022.

According to the Bangladesh Bridge Authority, some 27,37,590 vehicles from both sides of the river crossed the bridge until December 2022.

For the same period, some 14,718 vehicles crossed the bridge on average daily; the average toll collection is Tk 2.125 crore.

For the southern region of the country, it opened up new avenues of possibility. Padma Bridge’s opening resulted in a tourism boom at Kuakata sea beach, Sundarbans, and Payra port, as it drastically reduced travel time.

Bridges Division Secretary Md Manjur Hossain told UNB that the tourism sector of this region is expected to boom as a result of the reduced travel time.

“It now takes only six hours to travel to Kuakata beach, Sundarbans, and Payra port from Dhaka,” he said.

“The bridge’s adjacent areas have already become tourist attractions. Thousands of tourists are visiting the areas solely to see the bridge. In Mawa and Shariatpur, numerous restaurants, resorts, hotels, and motels are opening up,” he continued.

“The locals in this area are likewise quite welcoming to the visitors. Many locals now own tourism-related enterprises, which has given them additional opportunities to earn more,” the Bridges Division secretary said.

Historically and culturally significant sites like Badhyabhumi Smriti Shoudho, floating guava market, Durga Sagar, Kobi Krishna Chandra Institute, Khan Jahan Ali Bridge, Khulna Divisional Museum, UN Park, Rupsha river, Khulna shipyard, Gollamari Smriti Shoudho, Prem Kanon Bokultala, Mongla port, Raruli, Mr Charlie Kuthibari, and Sonadanga Solar Park have witnessed an increased number of tourists after the opening of the bridge, said Manjur Hossain.

Padma Bridge connected 21 districts of the southwestern part of the country to the northern and eastern regions, he said, adding, “Economic landscape of Barishal, Khulna, Gopalganj, Shariatpur, Madaripur and other districts of southwestern Bangladesh is rapidly changing.”

The bridge has changed the connectivity scenario of this region, which has contributed to social, economic, and industrial development, the secretary added.

Courtesy: UNB