Today in Transportation History – 1966: Legislation Enacted to Begin Bangladesh Bridge

Rare photo of Haque, taken from a newspaper clipping of the Daily Ittefaq, March 6, 1952.

A key moment in the prolonged efforts to build a major bridge across the Jamuna River in present-day Bangladesh took place when Shamsul Haque, a member of the Provincial Assembly from the city of Rangpur, formally introduced a legislative resolution for constructing that bridge. (At the time, this section of South Asia was a provincial state of Pakistan known as East Pakistan; the independent People’s Republic of Bangladesh was established in 1971.) The Provincial Assembly unanimously adopted the resolution.

There had already been various demands for this bridge over a long stretch of time. As far back as 1949, for example, Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani – a popular political leader whose decades of public service career included the period when present-day Bangladesh was still part of British India before becoming East Pakistan – publicly highlighted the need for a major bridge that would bring together both sides of the Jamuna River. It took the resolution introduced by Haque, however, to officially get the construction process underway.

Notwithstanding the unanimous adoption of that resolution, the subsequent steps for building the bridge dragged out for more than three decades. The political unrest and liberation war that resulted in Bangladesh becoming an independent republic played a huge part in this delay early on, with a feasibility study for the bridge ultimately undertaken and completed in the mid-1970s. Due to the significant technical and financial challenges spelled out in this study, plans to build the bridge were halted for several years. Finally, in 1986, the Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge Authority was established to implement the project. Construction began in 1994, and the Bangabandhu Bridge was completed and opened in 1998.

The Bangabandhu Bridge, which serves as a strategic link between the eastern and western areas of Bangladesh, connects the region of Bhuapur on the Jamuna River’s east bank with the town of Sirajganj on the west bank of the river. At the time of its opening, the structure (measuring more than three miles in length) was the world’s 11th longest bridge. It now has the distinction of being the sixth longest bridge in South Asia.

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