THE reported move of the ministry of industry to set up an industrial park outside Dhaka next year exclusively for the apparel manufacturers would otherwise go well with the expectations of forward-looking stake-holders. The objective behind the move, according to the concerned officials, is to facilitate relocation of the existing garment units operating in Dhaka and its adjoining towns. The planned apparel park would be established at Bausia under Gazaria upazila of Munshiganj over a land area of 300 acres. Dhaka has already become an extremely overcrowded city. The operations of a large number of readymade garment (RMG) units within it is one of the reasons for it. About 3.0 million people are employed in such units and related backward linkage industries. Such workers and their dependents constitute nearly one-third of the city’s population. The proposed relocation, if implemented, would be a big step toward unburdening the city of a substantial load of population. It would help make it less crowded and reduce pressure on utility services such as power and water.
But there are some good reasons for the Doubting Thomases to raise questions about the success of the move by the ministry of industry. The first reason here is the experience the government has had with similar kind of moves. The experience, unfortunately, has not been palatable. The government acquired land and created necessary facilities in Savar to help relocation of the tanneries from Hazaribagh with a view to relieving the residents of a large area in Mohammadpur and Lalbagh, of the problems of highly polluted environment and serious health hazards. The effluents released by the tanneries in the nearby water bodies and their foul smell have created a very hazardous environment. Despite the government’s well-intentioned efforts, the tanners under different pretexts have been resisting the relocation plan. None knows for sure whether the industrial park for leather and leather goods producers would ever be operational.
A similar resistance from the RMG owners and workers to the relocation plan, reportedly being taken up by the ministry of industries, cannot be ruled out. As far as owners are concerned, relocation would cost them, both money and time, and create some disruption of the current operations of their units. And the workers, who have been living in the city, would be unwilling to go to a new place and start life afresh there. It is not known whether the ministry of industries has discussed the relocation plan with the stakeholders concerned, including the associations of apparel producers and exporters. If this has not been done, then the move for having an exclusive approved park outside Dhaka may not serve the purpose.
One major weakness of the government’s development planning continues to be putting the cart before the horse. Many projects get stuck up at the initial stage or halfway through their implementation due to problems that should be foreseen at the planning stage and resolved before the implementation starts. The ministry of industries should, therefore, examine all the pros and cons before starting its work on the proposed park for apparels. Having one of the poorest land-man ratio, the country cannot afford any wastage of its valuable land. If the authorities are serious about the move for creating an industrial park exclusively for the apparel units outside the capital city, then they should not at this stage give any fresh permission to establish new apparel units in Dhaka city and its adjoining areas. The special economic zones (SEZs), to be established at various locations, might also accommodate new apparel units. In this context, the incentives that are to be offered in the SEZs might encourage relocation of existing apparel units.