People going from Barishal to Kuakata, Patuakhali, had to cross rivers by ferry at four points, which took a lot of time. But four bridges constructed during the last 10 years are going to shorten travel time on the route immensely.
Previously, travelling from Barishal to Kuakata took around seven to 12 hours. After the construction of the Sheikh Kamal, Sheikh Jamal and Sheikh Russel bridges in Kalaparaupazila of Patuakhali, travel time has been shortened to five-seven hours.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the fourth one – the Lebukhali Bridge – on the route today.
This will reduce travel time from Barishal to Kuakata to around two hours, according to the Bus and Minibus Owners Association of Barishal.
Completing the Lebukhali Bridge will also establish a direct road connection with Payra deep seaport port in Patuakhali.
The smooth transport system will open up opportunities for farmers, traders, industrialists, and tourism operators in the area. It will also benefit local people who need to travel to Barishal city for different purposes, including seeking better treatment.
The construction of the Lebukhali Bridge began on 24 July 2016. The four-lane bridge is 1.47-kilometre-long and 19.7-metre-wide. Approach roads have been constructed on seven kilometres on both sides of the bridge. The Chinese company Longjian Road and Bridge Company Limited has carried out the construction work at Tk1,444 core, according to the Bridges Division.
Bridges bring good news for businesses
Different companies and factories have already purchased land on both sides of the road that connect Kuakata and Barishal.
Mizanur Rahman, president of Barishal BSCIC Industry Owners' Association, said, "Business and trade will flourish here as the bridges establish direct road communications among Barishal, Payra port, and Mongla port. We will get a better chance of exporting and importing goods to and from Barishal."
"The road and the bridges will be the lifeline of business of Barishal," said Mizan, who is chairman of Fortune Group.
Fishermen inPatuakhali catch fishes from the surrounding rivers and the sea and sell them mainly in Kalapara'sMohipur Fish Market, the largest one in Barishal division. After the four bridges are completed, the fishermen will be to able sell their products at better prices and send them to distant parts of the country quickly.
According to Shajahan, a fisherman in Kalapara, Patuakhali, "Before the bridges were constructed, we had to carry the fish by trawlers or other vessels, which took a long time to reach their destinations. Moreover we could not send them to many areas by water routes."
"It's a historic development for the southern people. Especially it is our fishermen who will benefit as they don't have to depend only on the local market. They can send the fish to different city markets for a fair price," said Anisur Rahman, Barishal divisional director at the Department of Fisheries.
He said the fishermen will get at least Tk10-20 more per kg for all kinds of fish due to the easy transportation system.
Farmers in the fertile coastal area will also benefit from the bridges as it will enable them to send their products to different parts of the country.
AKM Mohiuddin, deputy director of the Department of Agricultural Extension in Patuakhali, said, "We can bring fertilisers and seeds for farmers very easily within a short time now due to the easy communication system."
"Farmers grow Aman paddy, lentilsand vegetables in large volumesthere. They will witness an increase in sales and prices, which will inspire them to grow more crops and vegetables," he said.
"The socio economic condition of this area is going to develop because of these bridges. The whole economy is going to develop due to the rapid communication facilities," said Jyotirmoy Biswas, a professor of economics at the University of Barisal.
He also said the bridges are directly enhancing southern people's contributions to GDP.
The bridges will boost the tourist business as it connects three tourists spots – Kuakata in Patuakhali and Tangergiri Eco Park and ShuvoShandhya Sea Beach in Barguna by road.
"We expect that the number of people visiting the area will double very soon because of the smooth communication system," Said Motaleb Hossain, president of Hotel Motel Association of Kuakata.
People expect access to better treatment
"Critical patients can be brought to Sher-e-Bangla Medical College Hospital from the coastal villages within a short time, which may save those patients' lives," said DrBashubev Kumar Das, director of Barishal Divisional Health Office.
Earlier, many critical patients could not reach hospital from the coastal areas due to the tortuous journey by four ferries. Sometimes an ambulance needed ten hours to reach Barishal from Kalapara, and some of the patients died on the way.