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Project goes to fridge
The government has abandoned the much-talked-about Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib International Airport project after years of serious move to build a world-class airport along with a satellite city.
The Prime Minister's Office in April returned a civil aviation ministry proposal for final selection of a site out of four locations without any suggestion or recommendation. The nod would have paved way for beginning a feasibility study.
"The PMO neither approved the proposal nor made any comment on it. It just sent the proposal back to the ministry after several weeks," said an official in the ministry wishing anonymity.
“It means,” the official added, “the Tk 50,000 crore project has been scapped.”
However, Civil Aviation Minister Faruk Khan told The Daily Star last week, "We're not moving ahead with the airport project after cancellation of the World Bank funding in Padma bridge in June.”
Since April, all activities relating to the airport project remained stalled.
Also, there are no activities of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib International Airport Construction Cell, which was formed to plan and supervise the mega project. Recently, the cell's head, a joint secretary of the ministry, has been made chief of a taskforce formed to ensure smooth travelling of this year's hajj pilgrims.
The four locations for the airport selected by the cell were Keyain in Munshiganj, Char Bilashpur and Char Latubdi of Dohar upazila of Dhaka, and Char Janajat under Shibchar upazila in Madaripur.
The cell had earlier selected Trishal in Mymensingh, Baghiar Beel in Madaripur-Gopalganj and Bhanga in Faridpur.
Another location, Arial Beel in Munshiganj -- which the government was very interested in -- was cancelled following protests by locals.
RENOVATION IS THE OPTION NOW
Aviation experts say that the demand for airport amenities for the next 25 years in the country could be met by upgrading the capacity of Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport with only one fifth of the Tk 50,000 crore that would be needed for the new airport.
They say almost 60 percent capacity of Shahjalal airport is still unutilised, and there is not only scope for 100 percent utilisation, but this capacity could be doubled by making another runway.
Currently, the Shahjalal airport handles around 40 lakh flights a year.
Faruk Khan said a plan for renovation of Shahjalal airport was taken and that it would ensure smooth handling of air traffic management and aviation activities for the next 10 years.
Under the plan, costing around Tk 435 crore, the airport's taxiway and lighting would be improved while resurfacing of the existing 10,500-feet-runway has already started.
The work would enhance the main airport's standard, hope officials of the ministry, as the runway and the taxiways would be sturdier -- enough to handle heavyweight and wide-bodied modern aircraft.
Earlier, the government finalised the vast swamp of Arial Beel, without any feasibility study, to build a new airport and the satellite city in line with the election manifesto of the Awami League.
But it had to backtrack on its stance in the face of violent protests by locals and clashes with law enforcers that left a policeman dead and many locals and law enforcers injured.
Following this, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in February last year announced that no airport would be built at Arial Beel "if people do not want". At that time, she said possibly a new site would be chosen “on the other [south] side of river Padma".
Operational activities were shifted from the old airport at Tejgaon to the present location in 1980. It was named Zia International Airport in 1983 and renamed in 2010 as Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, according to the website of Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh.
[ Front Page ] 2012-08-11