The government has already partially completed the feasibility study at the Shariatpur-Chandpur point of the Meghna River to construct a bridge which would facilitate road communications from the Chattogram division to Khulna, Barishal and Sylhet.
Currently, the contractor companies are carrying out underground soil tests, morphology and hydrology tests in 12 sites of the river in that area.
The reports would be submitted to the ministry next December and the government will decide on the length and possible cost of the bridge following that.
According to Bangladesh Bridge Authority (BBA) sources, vehicles from 21 districts in the southwest areas of the country cross the Meghna River through the Chandpur-Shariatpur naval route to 11 districts in Chattogram. For this, they have to use ferries in Narsinghpur of Shariatpur and Harina of Chandpur. The naval route was inaugurated in 2001 by the then prime minister Sheikh Hasina.
Since then, cargo vehicles from land ports in Benapole, Bhomra and seaports in Mongla and Payra have been operating on this route to different districts of Chattogram and Sylhet divisions. Because of this route, the vehicles do not have to get stuck in the traffic congestion of Dhaka, and the distance has been reduced by at least 60-70 km.
However, the government has planned to construct the bridge on this route to further facilitate communication. For this, a feasibility study project at a cost of Tk243 crore was undertaken in June last year. Three companies, Doha from South Korea, Tipsha from Spain and Nippon Koyei, have been appointed to conduct the feasibility studies. The companies started their feasibility studies at the field level in January this year, as per BBA sources.
Abdul Momen, dock manager of BIWTC at Narsinghpur ferry terminal, said, "The Shariatpur-Chandpur route is a very important ferry terminal. More than 600 vehicles cross this route every day. The ferries of this route are small, old and slow, otherwise, the number of vehicles would surpass 1,000 per day."
"The cargo vehicles have to wait at the dock for hours for ferries and many times the raw materials they carry get rotten given the delay. This problem would be solved if the bridge is constructed," he added.
Local MP (Shariatpur-2) and Deputy Minister for Water Resources Enamul Haque Shamim told The Business Standard, "The 21 districts in the south and south-west of the country have a lot of economic importance. But trade and commerce in the region are facing obstacles due to a lack of road communication. We are trying to build a communication network linking the country with this region."
"There are four important ports of the country in this region. The government has started the preliminary work of constructing the bridge keeping all these in mind. I hope the Prime Minister will lay the foundation stone of the Meghna Bridge within this term of the government," he added.
Md Liaquat Ali, director of the Feasibility Study Project, said, "The feasibility study of the Meghna Bridge is being carried out step by step. Part of the study has already been completed. The fieldwork will be completed by August and all the reports will be submitted to the ministry in December. Then the land acquisition plan, resettlement plan and the alignment of the bridge will be determined."