The government is going to build the country’s longest bridge over the Tentulia river to connect island district Bhola with Barishal.
The cost of the 10km bridge is estimated at Tk 9,922 crore, almost one-third that of the under-construction Padma bridge, which will be 6.15km long. However, the cost may escalate after the detailed design is finalised.
Once built, the bridge in the country’s southern part will shorten the travel time between the two districts and facilitate gas supply from Bhola, said officials.
Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) had already completed the feasibility study, which selected possible alignment of the bridge, they said.
“We are looking for donors,” Belayet Hossain, secretary (bridges division) of the road transport and bridges ministry, told The Daily Star on Sunday.
They will write to Economic Relations Division (ERD) soon requesting it to manage fund for the bridge, he said.
Earlier in the day (Sunday), added the secretary, Asian Development Bank Country Director for Bangladesh Manmohan Parkash in a meeting with him showed an interest in funding three projects of BBA, and the Bhola bridge is one of them.
Officials said based on survey, study and discussions, the bridge alignment was fixed at about a few hundred metres downstream the Bheduria Ferry Ghat on the Bhola side and the Laaharhat Ferry Ghat on the Barishal mainland side from the existing highway.
Of the 10km of the bridge, about 3km will be over Sreepur Char which separates two channels ofthe braided river, they said.
BBA Chief Engineer Quazi Muhammad Ferdous said the bridge would open up a scope for bringing in natural gas from Bhola as it would have facilities to carry gas through pipelines.
In January 2018, Mohammad Shafiul Alam, the then cabinet secretary, said explorers found a staggering 600 billion cubic feet of gas at Bheduria union, about 32km north of the Shahbazpur Gas Field in Bhola.
With the discovery, Bhola’s gas reserve stood at 1.5 trillion cubic feet, he had told reporters.
BRIDGE TO BOOST BUSINESS, COMMUNICATION
Separated by the Tentulia river, Bhola is on the eastern part of the Barishal division. With an area of 3,400sqkm and population of over 20.37 lakh, the district does not have any direct road link to Barishal.
By river, one can go to Bhola’s Bheduria from Barishal by launch in two hours or speed boat in 40 minutes. The individual has to travel around 30 minutes on road to reach Bhola Sadar upazila from Bheduria.
From Laaharhat Ferry Ghat in Barishal, one can also reach Bheduria by launch. There is also a ferry running between the terminal and Ilshaghat of Bhola Sadar.
The feasibility study report said passenger and goods transportation from Bhola relies on boats and launches and it was affecting the district’s socio-economic development.
Dipak Kumar Adhikary, a banker in Bhola, said his family lives in Barishal. “If there is a bridge, many like me would be able to go to work from Barishal every day.”
Manik Gupta, an official of a pharmaceutical company, said they sometimes face trouble to supply medicine to Bhola from Barishal due to delay in the ferry service caused by bad weather.
Several traders in Bhola also said businesses suffer losses due to the absence of a bridge.
“A direct bridge connectivity would solve our problem,” Osman Goni, a businessman from Charfesson upazila, told our Barishal correspondent.
The feasibility study report reads, “Completion of this project will bring enormous social and economic benefits to the people living in Bhola in particular and to southern part of the country in general.
“It is recommended that the bridge project be taken up for execution at the earliest.”
On November 5 last year, Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader said the construction of the Barishal-Bhola bridge would begin soon.
The work on formulating the bridge’s Development Project Proforma (DPP) was going on and talks were underway over the funding, he said at a view-exchange meeting with officials of Bridges Division and BBA at the capital’s Shetu Bhaban.
China showed an interest in financing the project, he added.
Starting in 2017, the feasibility study ended in August last year, an BBA official said.
It was prepared by STUP Consultant Private Limited of India, COWI Consulting of the UK, and Bangladesh’s Development Design Consultants Ltd and DevConsultants Limited.
The study projected that the traffic volume (motorised traffic per day) through the bridge would be 6,990 in 2024 while 15,620 in 2034 and 56,701 in 2054.
“Although the feasibility study is done, we asked them to do some review and hope that their work will be completed soon,” Quazi Muhammad Ferdous, chief engineer of BBA, told The Daily Star recently.
“We will request the ERD to look for donor(s),” he said.
On behalf of the government, Economic Relations Division negotiates with development partners for funding different projects.
The chief engineer said China and South Korea had already shown interest in funding the project.
Since the Bhola-Barishal Bridge does not have any proposed rail line, its cost will be much lower than that of the 6.15km Padma bridge, he said. The cost of Padma Bridge now stands at Tk 30,193 crore.
“So far the study says the river [Tentulia] won’t be as difficult as the Padma [for river governance],” said Ferdous.