Jamuna Bridge – A boost for Bangladesh’s economy
A big divide
Before the late 1990s, a geographical divide existed in Bangladesh. The river Jamuna, the mightiest of Bangladesh's three major rivers, divided the country into two. Communications between the marginalized northwest and the rest of the country were poor and, as a result, the north remained vulnerable to poverty and slow economic growth. However, a dramatic change came about when a massive project joined the two parts of the country creating major impact on Bangladesh's economy.
The World Bank supported one of the biggest infrastructure projects in the country
The Jamuna Bridge provided the first land connection between the relatively under-developed northwest and the more developed eastern region which includes Dhaka, the capital, and the port city of Chittagong. The Bridge has integrated Bangladesh's economy, commerce and communication more than perhaps any other investment in physical infrastructure.
The World Bank supported the building of the Bridge together with the Asian Development Bank, Japan's OECF and the Government of Bangladesh. Construction on the 4.8 kilometer long bridge -- the longest in South Asia and the 11th longest in the world -- started in late 1994 and was completed in June, 1998. The bridge has substantially reduced poverty by promoting investment, inter regional trade and job creation, especially in the northwestern region. As a result, poverty is expected to have been reduced by an estimated 20 to 40 percent. Nationally, it has been estimated that over one million people will have benefited from the construction of the Bridge.
Traveling time reduced
Previously, a journey from Dhaka to the north-western trading town of Bogra would take anywhere from 12 to 36 hours by slow moving ferry boats mired in traffic jams. With the Jamuna Bridge now in place, it takes only four hours or so.
Bangladesh's northwestern region had faced slow growth primarily due to high transport costs. These were substantially reduced after the bridge was built leading to a rise in the export of regional goods and the migration of labor. Producers of agricultural products started receiving higher profits due to savings in transport costs and time. This has encouraged the production of vegetables, poultry and sugarcane in some northwestern districts. The bridge has not only established a strategic connection through a four lane road and a railway link between the eastern and western part of the country but has also facilitated the transmission of electricity and natural gas and has integrated telecommunication links.
A major landmark
The Jamuna Bridge has become one of the most identifiable landmarks in the country. The Bridge has filled the gap on the Asian Highway and the Trans-Asian Railway both of which, when fully developed, will provide international road and railway links from South East Asia to North West Europe.