Priority on char

Site selection team for new airport prefers Madaripur shoal to 3 other locations
The cell for construction of a new international airport has prioritised Char Janajat in Shibchar upazila of Madaripur as a possible location for the proposed mega structure.

The cell might propose the location along with three other possible sites to the civil aviation ministry on August 24 with pre-feasibility studies.

Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib International Airport Construction Cell chief Joynal Abedin Talukder told The Daily Star yesterday that they are giving top priority to Char Janajat considering availability of required amount of land, the location’s distance from the capital, and easy access by river for transporting aviation fuel.

Char Janajat is a shoal that surfaced in the Padma river around 50 years ago, and now has almost become a part of the mainland. The proposed site is on 80,000 acres of land in North Char Janajat.

The location is on the south side of the Padma river around five kilometres down the river from Jazira point of the proposed Padma Bridge. It is 50 kilometres from the zero point of the capital.

The other three possible sites are Bhanga of Faridpur, Baghiar Beel of Madaripur-Gopalganj, and Sirajdikhan of Munshiganj. Bhanga is 62 kilometres from the zero point in the capital, Baghiar Beel is 110 km, Sirajdikhan is 18 km.

After the cell submits the pre-feasibility study reports on the proposed sites to the civil aviation ministry, the ministry will send those to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina for final selection of a site.

After a site is finalised, the ministry will appoint a consulting firm to conduct the feasibility study, and will invite tender for the construction job following the study.

The airport will be constructed under public private partnership scheme, Civil Aviation Minister GM Quader told The Daily Star recently.

On August 1, a cabinet meeting discussed construction of the new international airport and told the ministry to submit pre-feasibility reports on possible sites to the PM within a week.

Sources within the cell said most of the land in Char Janajat is government land, although there are some lands which were distributed among local people, who created settlements there.

But the sources could not say immediately how many families will be affected if the site is finally selected.

“We visited Char Janajat and Sirajdikhan for three days from August 11, and it seems to us that Char Janajat is the most suitable location for the airport,” said Joynal Abedin Talukder.

He said the cell will also propose construction of a tunnel road under the Padma river connecting the airport and the north bank of the river, so communication between the capital and the airport can be easy and smooth, by reducing the existing road distance by five kilometres.

The cell sources said a location on the south of the Padma river is getting priority to help alleviate the economic backwardness of the 21 districts under Barisal and Khulna divisions.

They also said if the area is developed and its communication with the capital is improved then people from the capital will go to Tungipara to visit the mausoleum of the father of the nation in greater numbers.

But some observers said some sycophants around the premier are pushing for constructing an international airport with Bangabandhu’s name because they believe giving the idea will carry points for them with the prime minister.

Lately the same group of people are pushing for the greater Faridpur district as the location, because that is the premier’s home district, the observers added.

The government earlier selected Arial Beel of Munshiganj as the site for the airport, but in the wake of violent protest by local people resulting in the death of a policeman, the PM announced that her government will not build the airport there if the people do not want it.

But the cell sources said if the people want, the government still might reconsider Arial Beel as the site.

Back then many experts said the country does not need another international airport right now, rather the existing ones should be expanded, for which provisions also exist.

The premier in response said in the next 10 years, the number of flights at Shahjalal International Airport will be over one lakh a year. And that airport will not be able to handle such a large number of flights even after massive renovation.

Shariful Islam – Daily Star

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