The nation has geared up to celebrate the grand opening of the country's biggest self-financed mega project - Padma Multipurpose Bridge - on Saturday as all the preparations have been completed.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will formally open the Padma Bridge, which is likely to boost GDP by 1.2 to 2%, by unveiling the inaugural plaque at the Mawa point this morning at 11am.
Awami League will arrange a public rally marking the opening of the bridge at Kathalbari under Shibchar upazila in Madaripur at 12 noon. The Premier will join and address the rally.
The entire area has been secured by law enforcement agencies.
Full-proof security measures have been taken as check-posts have been set up at all points and intersections on the way to the venue, Dr Benazir Ahmed said, adding modern watch towers have been set up to keep surveillance.
As preparations have been taken to host a mammoth public gathering, 500 temporary toilets, 22 toilets for VIPs, pure drinking water, a 20-bed and two 10-bed mobile hospitals and medical centres have been ensured. There will be ambulance facilities too.
Diplomats and government officials including secretaries, political leaders, and professionals have already reached to the Mawa site to attend the grand opening program. The prime minister is expected to arrive at the venue at 10am.
The venue located on the bank of river Padma has been decorated with a symbolic makeshift Padma Bridge having 10 spans on 11 pillars, marking the launching of the bridge.
Thousands of people gathering at the Padma Bridge inauguration site praised Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for realising their dream and making the lives of the public easier.
They reportedly headed towards the Padma Bridge opening site on reserved buses and launches.
People gathered near the inauguration spot at Kathalbari were seen beaming with joy to witness the opening of Padma Bridge. Some of them even came there with family members to take part in the celebrations.
One of the attendees from Khulna said the dream of millions has been realised.
"I am very happy to be here. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has made our dream come true. We have come to see the bridge," he told TBS.
Coming from Shariatpur, another participant said, while previous governments have embezzled people's money in the name of development projects, the present government has made the progress in the right direction.
"Padma Bridge is the proof that the Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina's government is working for the betterment of public," he added.
Another attendee coming from Shannashir Char by bus said the opening will change the fate of southern Bangladesh.
"We came here at night before everyone else. We have seen all around the bridge. There is so much to see," she added.
Hundreds of thousands of people from all walks of life are going to gather around the Padma Multipurpose Bridge today morning to participate in the opening ceremony of the much-anticipated 6.15-kilometre Padma Bridge will be opened for vehicular movement tomorrow.
Some two lakh people from Barishal division and three lakh from Khulna, and several lakh from the rest of the country are expected to take part in the joyful events, scheduled to be held at the two ends of the 6.15-kilometre bridge, our local correspondents reported.
With colourful decoration, at least 40 triple-decker launches carrying some 1.5 lakh people left Barishal division terminals yesterday evening for Munshiganj's Mawa, an end of the bridge. District and city units of the Bangladesh Awami League arranged the trips with festivity.
Besides, tens of thousands are expected to come by bus and other types of road transport from six districts of the division, a key beneficiary of the bridge of long-cherished dream
After that, the bridge inauguration programme will be shown on a big screen there. Then a day-long cultural programme with the participation of Nakul Kumar Biswas, Animesh Roy and Oishi will be held there.
A concert featuring Konal and Joler Gaan will be held there tomorrow.
The closing ceremony of the Festival of Prosperity will be held on the evening of 27 June.
Talking to The Business Standard, trip organisers said they arranged different kinds of cultural programmes inside the launches to entertain the travellers. "We have all the preparations to attend the long-waited programme on time," said Talukder Mohammod Yunus, Barishal district unit secretary-general of the Bangladesh Awami League.
"Special bus services would be operated from the early morning of Saturday," Said Joglul Haider, secretary of the Bus and Minibus Owners Association of Nathullabad in Barishal.
Nearly 50,000 people will join the event from Khulna district alone, while some 1 lakh will come from Bagerhat and Satkhira, and some 1.5 lakh from seven other districts of the Khulna division.
Besides, 500 teachers, officials and students from the Khulna University of Engineering and Technology (Kuet) will also join the event, confirmed its Public Relations Officer Md Rabiul Islam.
"We have hired 500 buses for joining the in-person event with our 50,000 activists," said Khulna City Awami League Secretary-General MDA Babul Rana. "We will start our journey at 10pm," he told TBS in the evening.
Satkhira District Awami League Secretary-General Md Nazrul Islam said they would start their journey early morning of Saturday by 300 buses.
The Padma Bridge project has been implemented at a cost of Tk30,193.39 crore with almost 100% internal funding which is believed to bring a new world to the country's economy by connecting 21 southwestern districts through roads and railways with the capital.
Starting in 1999 with a pre-feasibility study, construction of the bridge, which has since generated numerous headlines, has had its share of delays and even courted controversy.
The construction of the bridge was supposed to start in 2015, but the cancellation of foreign aid for it and an increasing depth of the river, among other complications, delayed the work.
Invited guests' reactions
Diplomats, government officials, political leaders, and other invited guests have reached the Mawa site to attend the inauguration ceremony of Padma Bridge.
Around 1000 guests have arrived at the main venue which has been designed in the shape of the Padma bridge. The venue can hold up to 3500 people.
While expressing his reaction to the opening of the dream project, Information Minister Muhammad Hasan Mahmud said that today reminds him of enjoying Eid as he used to during his childhood.
Awami League Presidium member Sheikh Selim expressed his joy and said the world will see a new Bangladesh. He called upon Henry Kissinger to visit Bangladesh now to see how the nation is forwarding under the able leadership of PM Sheikh Hasina.
"Padma Bridge is the answer to the insult that was done to the nation by withdrawing funding for the project," said eminent cultural personality Asaduzzaman Noor MP.