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Regional Connectivity: Bangladesh Perspective

Engr. Khondkar A Saleque |
Update: 2015-06-14 03:50:00
Regional Connectivity: Bangladesh Perspective

DHAKA: The opening of doors and windows of Bangladesh all around for linkages and connectivity with next door neighbors and beyond has created opportunity for developing Bangladesh into a regional development hub, economic corridor.

Bangladesh is surrounded in almost three directions West, East and North by huge Indian territory. Myanmar has land border in the south east. Bangladesh also shares maritime boundaries in the Bay of Bengal with Myanmar and India. Bangladesh can be conduit for connecting India on the west with China on the east through Myanmar.

The country has two operational sea ports Chittagong and Mongla which are very much underutilized. Land locked Nepal, Bhutan and some Indian states can be extremely benefited from using these sea ports. The potential of developing a deep sea port is under active planning which may be used by other countries of the region including China, India and Myanmar.

In the recent past during the government visit of Indian Prime Minister Naredra Modi some agreements, protocols and MOUs have been signed between Bangladesh and India. Railway and bus connectivity has already become operational between the two neighboring countries.

On 15 June 2015, the motor vehicle connectivity agreements among Bangladesh, India, Nepal and Bhutan will be formally signed. Now, depending on streamline visa formalities citizens of four friendly SAARC nations soon can commute freely for business and tourism.

Bangladesh for its unique geographical location now has its work cut out for developing its communication infrastructures for exploiting the opportunities.

Bangladesh Needs a Modern Self-Contained Airport

Bangladesh on air route is located on the cusps of Atlantic and Pacific routes. A well located modern international airport like Dubai International or Changi Airport of Singapore has become essential as Bangladesh is being thought as potential development hub of south Asia and the economic highway linking two giant world economies China and India.

If shallow-visionary environmentalists and academicians did not unnecessarily agitate the proposed airport at Arial Bil would have advanced a great deal by now. Whatever expansions and modernizations of Hazrat Shahjalal International are done now, it just cannot fit the Bil. Along with the construction of Padma multipurpose bridge a modern international airport in the vicinity of the bridge may soon be constructed to avail the unique opportunity.

We are sure few companies either on standalone basis or under public private partnership will be interested in constructing the airport on BOO or BOOT basis. If the construction can start even in 2017 it may not be impossible to make it operational by 2021.

Apart from another modern international airport, the airports now under implementation at Cox’s Bazar and Khulna must have all modern facilities to meet huge airways movement for both cargo and passengers craft in the future. Cox’s Bazar and Khulna will attract additional tourists and business people as we are blessed with the longest sea beach and largest mangrove forest of the world.

Need Massive Modernizations of Railway Communication:

Present railway communication in Bangladesh still remains outdated. The linkage with India and Nepal, Bhutan and rest of Asia in future requires major up-gradation of our railway communication.

The under implementation metro-rail will ease the pains of Dhaka urban commuters to some extent. At the same time the intercity railway communications have rooms for massive improvement.

The Khulna-Mongla rail project will connect Chittagong and Mongla ports in one direction and railway facility along Padma bridge and linkage on the far side of the bridge will link two major ports from the other side.

A railway bridge over river Jamuna and a tunnel under river Karnaphuli with the possibility of a rail ink as well will be extremely useful. The rail link of Dohazari to Cox’s Bazar project must be expedited. Government may seriously think about the involvement of private sectors in service providing and private sector in infrastructure development under private-public partnership.

Bangladesh India Must Conclude River Water Sharing Without Delay:

As lower riparian country India must not keep depriving Bangladesh of its legitimate share of common rivers. The comprehensive agreements of river water sharing must be concluded soon. Normal flow in rivers will ensure all seasons navigability along with integrated planning for irrigations and flood control.

Bangladesh has to implement massive capital dredging of almost all rivers to ensure all seasons navigability and protect the country from seasonal flooding. Most of the regional trades can be done through waterways.
Bangladesh has a major challenge of freeing the river banks from illegal occupation. If we take the example of Dhaka only freeing four rivers Buriganga, Sitalakhya, Balu and Turag is essential for regenerating these rivers.

Dhaka can have excellent city circular river-way, road built along embankment and even city circular railway. These rivers need urgent pollution control and coordinated actions.  For these all stake holders must come together. Government must involve people of political and social divide for a very critical activity of great national interest.

Multilane Highways:

We hope Bangladesh has by now understood the issues and challenges of 4-lane highways construction from Dhaka-Chittagong and Dhaka-Mymensigh highways. Now, the regional connectivity will require wider, faster road linkages of Dhaka with other major cities.

Most of Bangladesh intercity roads are not built to take the loads of multi-axle vehicles from India, Nepal or Bhutan that will start using Mongla and Chittagong ports facilities. These will need construction of new highways and massive upgrading of the most. These will require huge investment to the tune of hundreds billion dollars. Highway management and services must also be vastly improved. The existing roads and highways cannot handle the volume of traffic that may grow in 5-6 years.

Regional Power and energy Grids:

Energy is critical, directly or indirectly, in the entire process of evolution, growth and survival of all living beings and it plays a vital role in the socio-economic development and human welfare of a country. Energy has come to be known as a ‘strategic commodity’ and any uncertainty about its supply can threaten the functioning of the economy, particularly in developing economies.

Achieving energy security in this strategic sense is of fundamental importance not only to economic growth of the region but also for the human development objectives that aim at alleviation of poverty, unemployment and meeting the Millennium Development Goals (MDGs). Holistic planning for achieving these objectives requires quality energy statistics that is able to address the issues related to energy demand, energy poverty and environmental effects of energy growth.

Five countries of south Asia India, Bangladesh, Nepal, Bhutan and Myanmar either share common borders or separated by a small trip of land of third country from each other. India borders Bangladesh almost in entirely in three directions west, north and east and has maritime boundary in the south.

Bangladesh and Myanmar have land and maritime borders. Nepal and Bhutan are adjacent countries of Bangladesh separated by a small strip of Indian territory. All five countries have different primary energy resources most of which if explored jointly and shared in regional grids can contribute immensely in ensuring sustainable energy security without relying on imported energy for other countries. These in turn can have major impacts on economic development, poverty alleviation through creating jobs and ensuring lasting peace.

Bangladesh power grid is already connected with India and 500 MW Indian power is now imported. By 2017 India may export another 600 MW from its own generation. Talks are maturing among India, Nepal, Bhutan and Bangladesh for strategic investment in hydropower generation and co-creation of power grid for sharing power.

Bangladesh is also implementing several major power generation projects which will not only make it self-sustaining in power by 2030 but it may create situation for Bangladesh in availing access through regional connectivity for exporting power.

Bangladesh Need Development Vision Politics:

The windows of opportunities have opened. If Bangladesh can grab these and exploit its unique strategic geographical location of proximity to two rapidly developing economies the fundamental requirements are:

•    Politics of tolerance, economic and development vision
•    Economic diplomacy
•    Law abiding citizens
•    Strong,  honest, modern police and civil administration
•    Truly educated responsible civil society
•    Responsible media
•    Transparent and accountable bureaucracy
•    Educated and trained work force, integration of nonresident Bangladeshis in the development process
•    Activated and functional regulatory organizations

BDST: 1350 HRS, JUN 14, 2015

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