It is no exaggeration to say that the 160 million people of Bangladesh inhabit a space built by Jamilur Reza Choudhury. No matter what you say or do or how hard you dig away, rest assured you will never get to cover the sheer breadth of his achievements.

We can go through some of it. Scratch the surface. As a civil engineer, Jamilur Reza Chowdhury's hand was ever-present in the making of modern Bangladesh. At the the time of his untimely death this week, he was still heading the International Panel of Experts on the Padma Bridge, the country's flagship infrastructure project. Prior to that, he chaired the panel of experts who advised the government and a clutch of donors including WB, ADB and JICA, the Japanese government's international development agency, on the Jamuna Bridge, that was completed in 1998. He was also heading a similar body on the country's first elevated expressway, being built in the capital. He remained vital till the very end.

Transmission towers, airports and aircraft hangars, roads and highways, football stadiums, land ports, sea ports, power plants and jetties, literally nothing got built here, particularly nothing new or in its advent, without the imprimatur of this unfailingly humble and soft-spoken man.

He was also the 'team leader' for the Multipurpose Cyclone Shelter Programme, a role that saw him prepare the master plan for Cyclone Shelters in the coastal areas of Bangladesh. Nothing too spectacular to look at (there's 2500 of them dotted along the coast), just basic, life-saving infrastructure that made a viable proposition out of sticking the most teeming population ever assembled under one flag, into the most disaster-prone corner of the planet.

He was also the revered and beloved teacher who went on to lead 3 universities on or onto paths of excellence. The love of teaching never left him, and what he built in the confines of classrooms, where he dealt in generations, not steel and concrete, may yet rival his outdoor contributions that knowingly or unknowingly, we encounter on an everyday basis.

For the final word, we may return to our Japanese friends, the country's most reliable and consistent partners in development. They certainly knew the worth of this unassuming genius. Last year, Dr Choudhury received the "Order of the Rising Sun, Gold Rays with Neck Ribbon", one of the highest civilian awards in Japan, in recognition of his great contributions to economic development of Bangladesh through Japanese ODA projects. But more instructively, in 2013, in "gratitude for the cooperation and long standing contribution" to their activities, JICA conferred their special Recognition Award on Prof. Choudhury, where in the citation, they said: "No important development project in Bangladesh has been implemented without the involvement of Dr. Jamilur Reza Choudhury."

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