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December 4, 2014

Bangladeshi Professor Has Been Key to Country's Development
He was a central figure in the construction of a bridge that brought the nation together

photoProfessor Jamilur Reza Choudhury

Professor Jamilur Reza Choudhury, Vice Chancellor of Asia Pacific University in Dhaka, Bangladesh, has been involved in many important development projects in Bangladesh, including the Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge Project, which was key to the country's economic development.

The bridge, which opened in 1998, is 4.8 km long and spans the Jamuna River, which divides the nation into two parts. Choudhury, 71, was the chairman of the Panel of Experts for the bridge project.

Before the bridge was completed, the river could only be crossed using ferries. People had to wait hours, sometimes days, to go to the other side. The river also blocked logistics, and electricity and gas necessary for daily life, as well as economic development. The bridge, therefore, had been a big dream of the Bangladeshi people.

The actual construction was not easy. The wide Jamuna River changes its course depending on the amount of water in it and can move hundreds of meters in a month. Choudhury and the other specialists repeated a process of trial and error to determine where to build the bridge and how to control the flow of the river.

To prevent the river from shifting course, the banks needed to be fixed in place, but that was difficult because the riverbed consisted of sand. The innovative specialists came up with a solution. They brought in stones from Indonesia. Both banks of the river were solidified, and the stones fixed the riverbed in place so it would not move even if the sand flowed. The piles to support the bridge were 3.5 meters in diameter and 80 meters long. Two or three of them were combined into single units that were driven into the ground in the shape of an upside-down V.

Right before the bridge was to be completed, the Jamuna River experienced flooding on an historic scale, so the design had to be changed.

When the bridge was 3 meters from completion, Choudhury placed iron plate on the last section to be joined and crossed the bridge. In that moment the Bangladeshi professor felt the long-held dream of his countrymen of crossing the river by bridge had come true. And on June 23, 1998, the Jamuna Multipurpose Bridge, the 11th longest bridge in the world (at the time), opened for use.

JICA awarded Choudhury the JICA Recognition Award in 2013 to express its gratitude for his cooperation and long standing contribution to JICA’s activities.

*The contents of this story is a summary of a story published by the JICA Bangladesh Office. For the original story, please see below.

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