The government has selected a new site at Sirajdikhan upazila in Munshiganj for setting up a plastic estate. The previous site at Keraniganj was abandoned as it did not conform to the government’s Detailed Area Plan (DAP), which provides ‘a detailed land use plan’ for each area of Dhaka city by giving specific outline of the areas in terms of usage.
The implementing agency of the plastic estate — Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) — has already completed a feasibility study on the new site.
The industries ministry gave up the old site in Keraniganj in 2010 as the area fell under the DAP of Rajdhani Unnayan Kattripakkha, the capital development authority.
“We have selected a new site for the plastic estate on the Dhaleshwari river as it will help the sector grow in an organised way,” said Khadija Begum, deputy general manager of the BSCIC.
The BSCIC has a plan to make available 437 plots for the entrepreneurs on the Sirajdikhan site of around 50 acres.
But the number of plots might come down slightly due to some changes in the plan, said an official of the planning division of the BSCIC.
The state run corporation plans to set up a solid waste management plant, a product display centre, a fire extinguisher station and a bio-gas plant on the new site, said the official, asking not to be named.
The project expenditure might also increase to around Tk 200 crore from the earlier estimates at Tk 130 crore due to land price hike.
Plastic products represent a sizeable sub-sector in the chemical industry. The market size of plastic products is around $1 billion, with $714 million in the domestic market and the rest globally.
The plastic sector has around 3,000 manufacturing units that offer jobs to more than 20 lakh people directly and indirectly.
The BSCIC is now working to prepare a detail proposal for the estate to be sent to the industries ministry soon after signing a fresh memorandum of understanding with Bangladesh Plastic Goods Manufacturers and Exporters Association.
Due to changes in the plan on several occasions, the process of setting up the park got delayed, leaving the residents of Old Dhaka to live in constant fear.
The devastating Nimtali fire, which killed at least 123 people in 2010 and left more than 200 badly burnt, only reminds the residents what disasters the factories could bring in the neighbourhood.
Around 1,200 unplanned and mostly unauthorised plastic factories are operating in Dhaka.
The Economic and Social Commission for Asia and the Pacific (ESCAP) of the United Nations in a recent report asked the government to set up a separate economic zone for the plastic industry.
Bangladesh could emerge as a global player in plastic industry by increasing its turnover to $2 billion by 2015 and $4 billion by 2020, according to a case study on Bangladesh’s plastic sector conducted by the UN agency.
But for that, the country has to address three issues on a priority basis — infrastructure, waste management and recycling, and skills development, according to the study.
“We have been asking the government for several years to set up the park,” said Md Jasim Uddin, president of the plastic goods makers’ association.
“Bangladesh has the potential to expand the market of plastic goods globally. We just need policy and infrastructure supports,” said Jasim.
He said most of the plastic factories are now based in Old Dhaka, posing a serious threat to its residents.
“So, the industrial park for the sector has to be set up immediately,” said Jasim, who is also a vice president of the Federation of Bangladesh Chambers of Commerce and Industry.
According to Export Promotion Bureau data, Bangladesh exported plastic goods worth $88.69 million in the immediate past fiscal year, up by 28.98 percent compared to a year ago.
Consumption of plastics goods in Bangladesh is below the global average. “Per capita consumption in Bangladesh is estimated at two kg annually against the global average at 80 kg,” said the UN report.
This indicates that such consumption in Bangladesh is expected to rise as the economy grows.
Bangladesh exports plastic shopping bags, garbage bags, butcher bags, oven sacks, industrial films, PVC pipes, polythene sheets, plastic hangers, hand gloves, ropes, toys, electronic switches, polyester threads, computer accessories, audio and video cassettes, melamine tableware, toothbrushes, ball pens and artificial flowers.