The construction of a Bangabandhu International Airport on the bank of Padma River is facing uncertainty, as several proposed project sites have been deemed unsuitable following in-depth surveys.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina hinted at the issue in a question-answer session at the parliament on Wednesday, saying that she directed officials concerned to conduct more surveys for finding a suitable site for the airport project.
The Awami League-led government, during its previous tenure in 2011 took an initiative to build Bangabandhu International Airport in Arial Beel area of Munshiganj.
However, the project was cancelled after local people violently protested against the decision.
After the Arial Beel debacle, a cell formed to locate a suitable area for the proposed airport, began evaluating three possible sites.
In 2017, the Japanese firm Nippon Koei Ltd, finalized Char Janajat at Shibchar upazila in Madaripur, Keyain at Sirajdikhan upazila in Munshiganj, and Char Bilashpur under Dohar upazila in Dhaka, as possible sites for the Bangabandhu Airport.
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Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) and the Ministry of Civil Aviation and Tourism gave a powerpoint presentation to Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, showing her the three sites.
According to sources, the prime minister expressed concern regarding the feasibility of building the Bangabandhu airport on char [river island] area. She also rejected another site for being too close to a residential area.
During the question answer session at the parliament on Wednesday, the prime minister said: “We are currently conducting a survey at the Char Janajat area, to find a feasible site for building the airport.
“However, Char Janajat is a river island. So we must first study the feasibility of building an airport on the river island soil.”
Addressing the high density of population in Bangladesh, Sheikh Hasina added: “Bangladesh is a densely populated country, and it is difficult to implement a project here. Most of the sites scouted for building the airport are densely populated areas.
“I do not think it will be feasible to relocate people from the possible construction site. So, we are conducting more surveys for finding a more suitable area. The airport project will move forward once we find a site through the ongoing surveys.”
The prime minister also pointed out her government’s initiatives to modernize airports throughout the country, during the parliament session.
“Bangladesh used to have only one airport. We [the Awami League-led government] turned the airports in Sylhet and Chittagong into international airports,” she said.
Sheikh Hasina also added: “We have taken the initiative to build a third terminal at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport, so that the airport can handle more passengers and flights. We are also expanding the runway. The airport will become a bridge between the east and the west.”
Addressing the issue, former Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon [currently serving as the social welfare minister] said: “We showed the prime minister a list of possible sites for the airport. She rejected the proposal to build an airport near populated areas, and directed that more surveys be conducted to study the feasibility of construction on river island soil.”
This article was first published on Bangla Tribune