A new era in Dhaka commute
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina yesterday opened the country's first elevated expressway, which is expected to usher in a new era in Dhaka's commute by significantly cutting the travel time.
"This is a milestone in the communication sector. I have inaugurated the airport to Farmgate portion of Dhaka Elevated Expressway Project. Work on the remaining portions will be completed soon," she told a rally on the old trade fair ground at the capital's Agargaon after opening the 11.5km stretch of the much-awaited expressway.
The expressway is a gift to the people of Dhaka and across the country, the PM said, adding that it would play a great role in improving communications, report BSS and UNB.
"The expectations of the residents of Dhaka have been met with the opening of the expressway. The expressway will play a great role in reducing traffic jams significantly," she told the rally.
Before attending the rally, Hasina inaugurated the expressway around 3:30pm.
She paid the toll at the Kawla end where Road Transport and Bridges Minister Obaidul Quader received Hasina and her younger sister Sheikh Rehana.
After a short ceremony there, her convoy drove the 11.5km airport-Agargaon section and reached the old trade fair ground, where she unveiled the inaugural plaque around 4:00pm.
This section will open to traffic today.
The opening comes a decade after the government signed the deal with Italian-Thai Development Public Company to build the expressway in 2011, at a cost of Tk 8,703 crore. The agreement was revised and inked again in December 2013 with a revised cost of Tk 8,940 crore after bringing several changes to the design. According to the deal, the government will provide Tk 2,413 crore (27 percent) while the private partner will bear the rest.
The total length of the expressway is 46.73km stretching from Kawla, Kuril, Banani, Mohakhali, Tejgaon, Moghbazar, Kamalapur, Sayedabad and Jatrabari to Kutubkhali on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway.
To mark the opening, Dhaka city AL organised the rally, where Awami League leaders and activists from Dhaka and other districts gathered amid much festivity, chanting various slogans.
Speaking at the rally, Hasina said nothing could be gained by threatening to oust her government through imposing sanctions or visa restrictions.
"Let me tell you clearly. This is our soil; we liberated the country under the leadership of the Father of the Nation. There is nothing to gain by threatening us. People know how to realise their rights," she said, report UNB and BSS.
She also asked her party activists not to be afraid of clouds, and said, "Every cloud has a silver lining."
"There are six seasons in Bangladesh. During these six seasons, sometimes we see rain, sometimes we have storms, sometimes we have sun, and sometimes we have cyclones. We have the experience of witnessing different things in different times. There is no point trying to intimidate us," Hasina said.
The AL chief also said BNP is now talking about a movement for revival of democracy though the party itself was established undemocratically.
"There are many who do not see democracy in the country and want to salvage democracy. How can a party that was formed undemocratically offer democracy?"
Hasina said that between 1975 and 1996 and again between 2001 and 2008, the country had plunged into darkness. "Today, the country is not in that era of darkness anymore. Bangladesh is now on a journey towards light."
She also said that since 2009, the government has ensured democracy and voting rights in the country.
Speaking at the event, Obaidul Quader said many development projects including elevated expressway, metro rail, Padma Bridge and Bangabandhu Tunnel have been implemented during the AL government's tenure, while the BNP gave the country nothing.
Hundreds of leaders and activists of various associated bodies of AL started thronging the rally venue since 12:00pm with colourful banners and festoons praising the government and the PM.
Within hours, the rally venue was packed with thousands of activists.
Jasim Uddin, 60, came from Jamalpur to attend the rally.
"This [the expressway] is our pride. I have come from so far to listen to the prime minister and other party leaders," he said.