Padma Bridge injects fresh blood in southern economy

On the industrial side, Barishal will also be making a number of firsts, including its first ever garments factory and a bottled water purification factory, which come soon after the inauguration of the much-awaited bridge.

The garments factory will begin operations in Barishal’s Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) in December, with two lines initially. It is set to generate employment for around two hundred people.

Touhidul Islam, owner of Nirmak Designs Garments, said the plan is to have twelve lines employing 1,000 people.

The initial investment of Tk60 crore also comes with risks.

“There are no raw materials related to garments in Barishal. I have to pay extra transport costs to bring the raw materials from Dhaka, which will increase production cost,” he said.

Furthermore, there is also a dearth of specialised workers, but Touhidul is optimistic that the risk will pay off.

If the industry gets a gas line in Barishal, then a raw materials factory may also be set up, he said, adding some had already expressed an interest to do so.

Elsewhere in Barishal, a bottled water purification factory is being set up, with Mohini Mineral Water having already begun testing its water before distribution to the southern markets within November.

“I established the factory as the product has good demand in the area, but there is no such factory here. It is very tough to establish a brand staying in one region but I now want to send my product to Dhaka as it has become easier to do so,” said Jamal Hossain, owner of Mohini Mineral Water.

As more factories turn towards Barishal, land is also being quickly grabbed up.

“I have sold five acres of land along the Dhaka-Barishal highway on the river bank. The company will establish a cement factory there,” said Saju, t owner of Dhanshiri Developer in Barishal.

“I have prepared 149 plots at Barishal’s BSCIC which will be distributed among middle level factories or industries. The plot has good demand now but we are looking for some middle level industry,” said Jasim Uddin Haider, deputy commissioner of Barishal.

Although companies have begun purchasing land, the lack of gas means manufacturing is yet to start. Many are awaiting natural gas from Bhola.

Keeping up with Khulna

With easy communication and low transport cost, the Padma Bridge has also breathed new life into different economic activities in the Khulna region, including boosting export-import through Mongla port.

According to theMongla Port Authority (MPA), around 12.69 lakh tonnes of goods, including reconditioned cars, gas, fertiliser, clinker, coal, machinery, oil etc, were imported through the port in July and August following the inauguration of the Padma Bridge on 25 June.

Before the bridge was constructed, an average of five lakh tonnes of goods were imported per month. However, in the last two months, an average of more than six lakh tonnes of goods have been imported.

Many business entities have also started using the port to export garments product, saving both cost and time.

Md Makruzzaman, deputy secretary (board and public relations) of the MPA, told The Business Standard, “Since 28 July, 27 garment factories in Dhaka have exported products, including children’s clothes, jerseys, cardigans, T-shirts and trousers to Poland through this port. Earlier, no garment goods were exported through this port.”

He said the Padma Bridge has reduced the distance between Mongla port and Dhaka by 170km and from Chattogram by 260km.

Rear Admiral Mohammad Musa, chairman of Mongla Port Authority, said, “Mongla port has been transformed into a world class port with the concerted efforts of the present government. The capacity of the port has increased several times. Exporters and importers have become more interested in using the port after the inauguration of the Padma Bridge.”

At the same time, the facility of importing cars by using this port has increased.

Bangladesh Reconditioned Vehicles Importers and Dealers Association –- Barvida’sMongla Port Standing Committee Chairman Ahsanur Rahman Arju said, “Earlier, some of the cars imported from Japan used to be unloaded at Chittagong Port and come to Mongla port. At that time 500 to 700 vehicles were brought to Mongla port. But because of the Padma Bridge, communication with Dhaka has become easier. So we are not unloading cars at Chittagong port now.”

He said, “It now takes 3-4 hours to take a car from Mongla port to Dhaka. Earlier it used to take 6-7 hours.”

In Satkhira, Bhomra land port is also seeing increased business.

General Secretary of Bhomra Port C&F Agent Association MaqsoodAlam Khan said after the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, the import and export of Bhomra port has increased. Earlier 50-70 truckloads of goods were exported daily. Currently it is 120-150 truckloads, alongside 400-420 truckloads for imports.

For traders, it’s goods galore.

Motaleb Ali, a wholesale vegetables trader from Sonadanga Truck Stand, Khulna, said, “Now, it takes only five hours to send a truckload of goods from Khulna to Dhaka. Earlier, it used to take more than 12 hours.

“Where previously it cost Tk15,000 to send goods from Khulna to Dhaka’s Karwan Bazar, it has now decreased a lot. Although fuel price hikes pushed up transport costs, without the bridge such a price rise would have been unbearable,” he said.

“At least, 10,000 trucks transport goods on the Khulna-Dhaka route every day. Earlier, a truck used to make one trip a day on this route, but it is possible to make at least two trips per day now,” said AmzadHowlader, a truck driver from the area.

According to the Department of Fisheries, Khulna division, about 145-160 tonnes of fresh fish are transported from Khulna, Satkhira and Bagerhat to Dhaka.

“Transporting fish has become easier with the launch of the Padma Bridge,” said Jaydev Pal, district fisheries officer, Khulna.

On the other hand, around 600 tonnes of different agricultural products are taken to the capital every day from Khulna, Satkhira, and Bagerhat, as per data from the Department of Agricultural Extension, Khulna.

Easy road communication, reduced domestic flights

As the Padma Bridge has increased road connectivity, more people are moving away from domestic flights.

Md Bulbul, assistant manager of SohagParibahan, said, “Earlier it took six to 10 hours to go to Dhaka by road as cars used to get stuck in traffic for hours at MawaGhat. As a result, many people used to travel to Dhaka by air through Jashore Airport. Now it takes three to four hours to reach Dhaka from Khulna. “

While bus services are enjoying more customers, airlines are staring at losses.

Sabbir Hossain, station manager, US Bangla, Khulna, said, “After the inauguration of the Padma Bridge, the number of passengers from Khulna-Jashore to Dhaka has decreased. As a result, the number of flights has been reduced by 50%.”

The impact of the Padma Bridge can also be felt in Shariatpur, where 200 new buses have been introduced on the Dhaka-Shariatpur route.