INFORMED debates on public issues including projects are healthy. These may focus attention on some critical aspects worth examination that may otherwise evade consideration of even the most serious ones among policy-makers and executives. It is invariably one of the main reasons why democracies nurture parliaments to perfect ideas through cross-examination in debates from all angles of vision, which are characterised also by opposite views. But, if such critical debates are unduly prolonged, the fate of many projects might find place on the hanger or, at least, those may not be implemented anytime soon. It may be more so in the situation of a country, like Bangladesh, where many public projects are implemented with external assistance -- loans or grants having, more often than not, conditions of donors attached. It is precisely for this reason the controversy over the design of the proposed new bridge on the Karnaphuli river in the country's commercial hub of Chittagong should be over soon.
The controversy over the design of the proposed bridge is: whether it should be a hanging bridge or one on pillars. The Chittagong City Mayor's view that a bridge on pillars will accentuate siltation of the river below, may have some substance. It has prompted him to hold out the threat of resisting its construction by any means,. But should Chittagong's future then be stuck up under the sediments of supposed piled up siltation in the mouth of its river -- the Karnaphuli that roars daily during the full tide in the adjoining sea? Siltation in a port area is one of the inevitable after-effects of nature being obstructed in running its normal course. A busier port always accentuates the siltation process.
Dredging is, thus, the recourse for maintaining the workability of ports. The same has to be done at periodic intervals to maintain the depth of the Karnaphuli and the workability of the Chittagong Port. That is why the possibility of siltation should not deter or delay the construction of the proposed bridge. It should come up as per schedule. Otherwise, possibility remains that the fund pledged by Kuwait for the construction of the bridge may go back to its source or, at least, the proposed bridge may become another example of foreign-aided projects being slow in implementation. The president of the Chittagong Chamber of Commerce and Industry has, meanwhile, spoken out in favour of construction of the bridge as per the existing design. Experts should immediately articulate their views to remove all confusions.
Chittagong -- the major port city in this country -- is this nation's equivalent of India's Mumbai and, thus, the roaring and also growing commercial centre that is said to be holding the main key to its rise as a future industrial power. The full realisation of the growth potential of Chittagong will be deterred if the finest infrastructures, both efficient and reliable, cannot be rapidly developed there to attune itself to a rising Asia witnessing more and more mutual co-operation and foreign direct investment. This country will fail to receive the benefits of the growing tide of that big change and remain a hazy spot in a transformed Asia if the nation -- particularly, the people of Chittagong, do not effectively respond to this important need. The future generations in this country will not condone the current leadership -- political, experts and intellectuals, if the nation misses this historic opportunity of changing its own lot for the remarkably better.