Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on Sunday hoped that the Padma Bridge would be a blessing for the nation for easier communication in the wake of flood, as the government is set to inaugurate it on June 25.
"After the opening of the Padma Bridge, I hope, InshaAllah, it would be a blessing as uninterrupted communication with the Southern region will be ensured," she said.
The premier made this optimism while addressing a reception ceremony of sports-persons at Shapla Hall in the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) here as the chief guest.
She said, "The Padma Bridge will create a vast opportunity for us to transport goods, tackle floods, stand beside people and provide them assistance."
She added, "I think we are going to open the (Padma) bridge at a time when flood began on one side, but it may also go to the Southern region."
Sheikh Hasina said during the flood, river crossing becomes difficult as it gets extra current and appears as furious and that is why people get stuck on the river bank.
In this connection, she also shared her own experiences of being stuck in Tungipara during the flood of 1988.
The premier said that if there would have been a bridge over the Padma River, she could have traveled to Dhaka instead of being stuck.
"So, after the opening (Padma Bridge), all types of works such as providing assistance, medicine etc to people could be done easily during the flood," she said.
Recalling the time of inauguration of Bangabandhu Bridge on the River Jamuna, the prime minister said there was a severe and prolonged flood in 1998 in the country.
At that time, the bridge connected the Northern region with other parts of the country, she said.
She added: "As I opened the Bangabandhu Bridge, goods from the region were transported easily to the other areas during the flood that had helped tackle floods in an easier way."
To this end, she also remembered that international organizations at that time predicted over two crore of people would die because of the flood, but, "I replied that we won’t let anybody die and no person died".
She added, "As I opened the (Bangabandhu) bridge, we were able to tackle the flood easily."
The prime minister also recalled that the southern region had received huge support from the Northern region at that time.
In the reception ceremony, financial honorariums were provided to a total of 88 sports-persons, including 33 members of the SAFF-2021 Champion Women U-19 National Football Team.
The 55 other sportsmen include 33 persons from Mujib Borsho FIFA International Football Series 2020 and 22 sportsmen from Bangabandhu 4-Nation Physically Challenged Cricket Tournament 2022.
SAFF-2021 Champion Women U-19 National Football Team's Captain Maria Manda, player Monika Chakma and chief trainer Golam Rabbani Choton, Bangladesh Physically Challenged Cricket Team Captain Faisal Khan and Bangladesh National Football Team Captain Jamal Bhuyan received cheque of financial honorariums from the hand of the prime minister.
At the outset of the function, a video documentary on the three categories of sports teams was screened.
State Minister for Youth and Sports Md. Zahid Ahsan Russel, Bangladesh Football Federation President Kazi Md. Salahuddin, Women U-19 National Football Team Captain Maria Manda and Bangladesh Physically Challenged Cricket Team Captain Faisal Khan also spoke.
Additional secretary of Ministry of Youth and Sports Nazrul Islam delivered the welcome address.
The Prime Minister said her government would continue to support developing world class athletes in the country's sports arena.
Mentioning that flood is a regular phenomenon in the country, she said, "We will deal with the flood and we will also continue sports. Everything will go on. This is our life, we have to accept it."
She added, "This is the reality and we have to move ahead with this reality, and we will keep our heads high on the world stage."
Sheikh Hasina said the government is taking various measures to rescue, treat and provide relief to the flood victims to minimize the suffering.
She said it is the monsoon season, the floods in Sylhet and Sunamganj districts have occurred much more massively this time "but, I am monitoring it regularly".
"We are doing rescue work and providing relief along with various measures for the flood victims," she said, mentioning that local administration, army, navy and all other organizations are deployed to rescue people and provide assistance.
At the same time, she said, the leaders and activists of Chhatra League, Juba League, Swechchhasebak League and associated organizations of Awami League have come forward with assistance in different areas.
The government has been doing everything to drain out the water and is also ready to deal with the post-flood situation, she added.
The head of government said she had cautioned all the concerned earlier, saying that this time there could be a massive flood. "I have warned everyone, told them to be prepared and we have that preparation."
About the possibility of floods in the central and southern parts of the country, she said as the flood began in the north, it may hit the south.
Sheikh Hasina said, "The water has started receding. When the water recedes from Sunamganj, other areas start flooding. This is our natural system. So, there is a possibility of flooding, especially in Rangpur division, Mymensingh division. We are already taking measures in this regard."
The Prime Minister said when the flood water recedes from the north-eastern part, the middle region might be flooded till the Bengali month of Shraban and then the southern region from Shraban to Bhadra and it is a system of nature.
She said, "In Bangladesh, we will have to move forward coping with its natural environment."
"So, we'll continue the activities to ensure normal life alongside facing the natural disasters she added, referring to the fact that Bangladesh successfully hosted the Mini World Cup (The 1998 ICC Champions Trophy) during the 1998 flood.
Mentioning that her government introduced the Bangabandhu Gold Cup and Bangamata Begum Fazilatun Nesa Mujib Gold Cup at the primary school level, she emphasized on the arrangement of inter-college and inter-university competitions to pick players for the national teams.
"I think inter-school and inter-college competitions should start soon. We'll do everything necessary for this," she said.
Sheikh Hasina said her government is constructing a mini-stadium in every upazila for development of all types of sports. The construction works of mini-stadiums continue in 186 upazilas, she said.
She directed the Sports Ministry to come up with a fresh project to construct the mini-stadium in the remaining upazilas, adding "I don't want the delay (in construction of the mini-stadiums). I want the mini-stadiums ready in 493 Upazilas."
The premier noted that it is essential to put more emphasis on the country's rural sports.
To this end, she mentioned that her government has already recognized the Bangladesh Country Games Association for putting more emphasis on the promotion and dissemination of rural sports.
The Prime Minister urged the industrialists and businessmen to come forward in helping the players and thus promote sports.
If the industrialists and businessmen appoint the players in their ventures, the players would be able to give more attention to sports as they would not need to remain worried about their livelihoods, she said.
"It is not right that you would do just business, set up industries and make money. You will have to do something for the country," she continued.
Emphasizing on cooperation of the private sector, the Prime Minister said, "The more we cooperate, the more it will bring excellence. We have to give the opportunity of livelihood to those who will bring honor for the country through playing. That's what I believe."
She added, "Players will only play sports and when there are more clubs in the country, more competitions will be there, more excellence will be in sports. We have to create such an environment."
Referring to the various achievements brought by the physically challenged players for the country in the field of sports, she said, "Although the physically challenged persons were once considered a burden, today they have proved that they can bring honor for the country if they get opportunity. They have proved that they are our asset."
Regarding the reception, Sheikh Hasina said, it is always a pleasure to give a reception to the prominent players, but the current situation is a bit unusual due to the flood situation and Covid-19 pandemic.