Dr. Jamilur Reza Choudhury
Long-waited Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge
Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge was opened in 1998. The bridge is 4.8 km long and goes across the Jamuna River, which divides the nation into two parts.
Before the bridge was completed, there had been only ferries to go across the river. The people had to wait for hours, sometimes for days, to go to the other side. The river also blocked logistics, electricity or gas, which were necessary for daily life and economic development. The bridge, therefore, had been a big dream for the people in Bangladesh.
"It was not easy to construct the bridge over the Jamuna River," Dr. Jamilur Reza Choudhury, 71 years old, said. Dr. Choudhury, Vice Chancellor of Asia Pacific University in Dhaka, was the chairman of Panel of Experts for Jamuna Bridge Project.
No important development project in Bangladesh has been implemented without the involvement of Dr. Choudhury, including many JICA assisted projects. JICA awarded him "JICA Recognition Award" in 2013 to express JICA's gratitude for the cooperation and long standing contribution to JICA's activities. He also advised in planning, design, progress monitoring, quality control and contract management for the Chittagong Airport, suggested to Dhaka Mass Rapid Transit Development Project and more.
Among many, Jamuna bridge project is still one of the most impressive works for Dr. Choudhury. "Jamuna River is meandering and braided river. The soil is very soft and it is eroded within a few days. So, we needed to train the river for constructing the bridge."
The project was unprecedented so was the budget. For example, they needed to use iron pile of 3.5m diameter and 80m long, which iron was imported from the South Korea and stones to strengthen the soil were imported from Indonesia. According to Dr. Choudhury, the government of Bangladesh established "Jamuna levy" for this project. "The amount of money each one paid might be small, but so many people participated in constructing the bridge. It showed how much they had expected for this bridge," he said.
Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge. Around 11,000 vehicles cross the bridge every day. Trains, electricity, gas also go across the river on the bridge.
On the day the bridge was almost completed, there was a ceremony of crossing the bridge for the first time. "I was one of the first people to go across the bridge. I thought that our dream came true then." Thirty years have passed since the first study on the Jamuna Bridge had been done.
Catching up the latest technology
"I have been living in the same house in Dhaka for 62 years," Dr. Choudhury said with a smile. He was the advisor or member of most of major infrastructure project in this country. With his high reputation, he was invited to the projects in the other countries, too. There might have been another way to live in affluence in other countries.
"Yeah, I had chances to work abroad and might have been able to get bigger house. But I did not want to leave Bangladesh. I studied here in this country and that money for my education came from tax payers here. I received so much benefit from the education, so I have to return something to my country"
"In addition," he said, "I was able to join many of difficult engineering projects in Bangladesh. I found professional satisfaction here and am so much glad to serve the nation."
Dr. Choudhry is also a good teacher. He memorizes all the names of his students and can recall even a student 40 years ago. Thus he is welcomed everywhere he goes by his former students. In Japan, one of his former student said that he would be more than happy to offer his room to his teacher and he would stay with his friends. In Nepal, he was welcomed by around 200 Nepalese students who had studied in Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology (BUET).
A big pile with 3.5m in diameter used for constructing the Jamuna Bridge is in the park near the bridge.
"Developing countries need professionals in various categories. We need lots of good engineers," he said. "But technology grows rapidly. The engineers need to keep truck with global development though they are working in developing nations. You have to try to understand what's happening in the other countries. Nowadays, you can use internet to catch up the latest technology. It is much easier."
On the other hand of catching up the latest technology, he emphasizes the importance of facing the reality of a developing country. He said, "Visiting project sites is extremely important for engineers to study. There is no substitution."
For the year of 2013, JICA Recognition Award went to four non-Japanese experts in Bangladesh, Thailand, Viet Nam and Indonesia, while JICA has been conducting its development projects to more than 170 counties in the world.