10 November night. I am sitting in a restaurant by the sea in Cox’s Bazar. On the 11th, the prime minister will inaugurate Cox’s Bazar railway line, iconic railway station, deep sea port channel at Matarbari, coal power plant, and the 565-meter-long bridge over the Bakkhali River with Cox’s Bazar city built by LGED.
Abul Monzur Md Sadeque:
Along with this, about 15 more projects and schemes constructed by LGED and other organizations will be inaugurated, and foundation stones will be laid. Many senior government officials associated with the inauguration ceremony are now in Cox’s Bazar. Many of them have come to this restaurant built beside the sea. We have some colleagues, too.
Some singers are singing at the restaurant. What happens when singers see middle-aged people is that they try to recount songs of the olden era. They are now progressively moving toward modern songs. Someone requested a regional song. The singer went back to the song “Ore sampan wala, Buker bhetor bandhi raikhum toare”, and then moved to the famous Bangla movie songs like “Ore Neel Dariya, Sagar Tir Theke Misti Kichu Hawa Ene.” I keep drowning in memories. Sometimes floating, then reminiscing again. I grew up in Baharchhara village by the sea. My father was the superintendent of the Police Training Institute (PTI). We used to live in a government quarter near the seashore. There were several one-story tourist cottages within walking distance of the house. It was only a 400-yard walk to the old Hotel Saimon. Now there are multi-story buildings. We would see film crews while fetching bread and biscuits from Saimon’s bakery. Sometimes I would get to see big heroes and heroines. The big road next to the house was “Motel Road”. Picnic buses and songs played on microphones during winters on Motel Road remained a large part of childhood. In the 1970s and 1980s, there were very few hotels and motels. Tourists from various schools and colleges used to spend the night on the benches of the schools and colleges in Cox’s Bazar. Many used to bring groceries along with chefs and crockeries. Even after going through such hardships, people would forget all their woes by soaking in the sea.
At the inauguration ceremony of the railway line project yesterday, the prime minister told the story of her youth and Cox’s Bazar. When Bangabandhu was out of jail, he tried to come to Cox’s Bazar with his family. In 1961, Sheikh Hasina came to Cox’s Bazar for the first time with Bangabandhu. They stayed in a motel, which had a kitchen included. They used to cook and eat themselves. After 1961, she came to Cox’s Bazar a few more times when Bangabandhu was out of prison. Cox’s Bazar holds a big place in the memory of the prime minister. Added to this is her passion and her unquenchable desire to transform the country into an international, smart Bangladesh by harnessing the immense potential of Cox’s Bazar.
Cox’s Bazar has been transformed at the hands of the prime minister. One of the prime minister’s dreams was realized with the Marine Drive in Cox’s Bazar. In the 70’s and 80’s, shooting crews and adventurous tourists traveled to Himchari, Inani, in open jeeps. The Marine Drive project started in the 1990s, but progress was repeatedly stalled. After coming to the government in 1996 and later from 2009 to 2016, with the strong will of the prime minister, the work on Marine Drive was completed. Yesterday, the prime minister said, “There may be long beaches in the world, but there are no more 80-mile-long sandy beaches. The entire length of the beach is enjoyable; it is a rare beach in the world. I also visited long beaches in Japan. But it was not easy to go down because it was a clay beach. The same is true in the Netherlands. Spain and Portugal have sandy beaches, but not of this length.”
Such a world-famous beach is here. What is the easiest way to expose yourself to the world? Under the initiative of the prime minister, the airport has been expanded and internationalized. That dream of touching the sea and landing the plane will be realized soon. Reclaiming a portion of the sea, the construction of the runway is progressing rapidly. For a long time, I thought when I saw the island of Bali, Can’t we do the same?
In 1981, I enrolled at Chittagong Collegiate School and left home. Chattogram-Cox’s Bazar Road has not been smooth since childhood. The country is progressing, but the communication system in Cox’s Bazar is not progressing. This is a long-standing grievance of the people of Cox’s Bazar. Earlier this year, I was tragically injured in a terrible accident on this road. Many people like me are constantly having accidents on this road.
However, the British planned to build a railway line to Cox’s Bazar in 1890. It was planned again during Pakistani rule, but it did not work. Overcoming the failure of the past 133 years, the prime minister took the reins with a strong hand and opened the railway up to Cox’s Bazar. Any tourist who gets on a train from Dhaka at night and gets down at the iconic railway station in the morning has an oyster waiting for him. Not only in Cox’s Bazar, but railways have been expanded in the last 15 years almost all over the country. Only Barishal is left.
The city of Cox’s Bazar was a city with a road running east-west. Hills on the south, and the Bakkhali River on the north. This city has grown day by day. The population has increased manifold. There is a bypass road. Settlements have become denser. But the city did not expand. Under the initiative of the prime minister, LGED has constructed a spectacular 565-meter-long bridge over the Bakkhali River. Its design was also approved by the prime minister himself. The construction of this bridge near the mouth of the sea has been very challenging. LGED has crossed these hurdles with the inspiration of the prime minister.
The prime minister has a good relationship with the Japanese government. I have visited Japan and JICA headquarters several times in 2009 for a two-month training and later on government work. The unique global presence of the prime minister is easily understood in Japan and at JICA headquarters. JICA is now transforming Matarbari in Maheshkhali. Cox’s Bazar is becoming a game changer for the entire economy of the country. JICA’s City Governance Project has also started in Cox’s Bazar Municipality. It is being implemented by the LGED and the municipality. The city will change along with its waste management.
I often wonder how the country has changed in the last 15 years! It is as if we have passed many lives in one life, and the prime minister is helping the flowers of hope bloom in the lives of crores of people in one life, giving us the courage to dream. May our dreams live on in Digital Bangladesh, Middle Income Country, Developed Country-Smart Bangladesh, and Sonar Bangla.
May the prime minister be blessed with a good life and endless vitality—this is my wish forever and ever.
Abul Monzur Md. Sadeque is the project director of Greater Chittagong Rural Infrastructure Development Project 3.