Factories of 18 companies are creating employment for 35,000 people, 70% of them rural women
The Uttara Export Processing Zone (EPZ) has been thriving in all ways, including the volume of exports, the amount of investment and the creation of employment opportunities.
Employment in the EPZ is gradually improving the rural economy and standard of living in the region.
Situated in Songolshi union council under Nilphamari Sadar upazila on 212 acres of land, the EPZ was opened by then-Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in July 2001. Since then, the EPZ has contributed to ultra-poor people being able to come out from the poverty trap.
On the 212 acres, 187 industrial plots have been built, of which 118 have been allocated so far.
As of January this year, a total of $177.48m has been invested in this EPZ, while $995.65m worth of goods have been exported internationally from this EPZ.
Sources said 18 companies (9 local and 9 international) have so far set up their factories on 140 plots, creating employment for 35,000 people – 70% of them rural women – as of January this year.
The companies include five, from Hong Kong, UK and other local companies, that invested around Tk2,000 crore in the EPZ collectively.
The foreign companies are producing export oriented wigs, coffins, spectacles , leather products, belts, toys, bamboo coffins and sweater for the global market, while local companies are producing ready-made garments accessories, among other items.
Industrialists believe that if this EPZ could be connected with India’s Chilahaty land port by road and rail, as well as if the Saidpur airport was modernized, then the number of investors would significantly increase.
Hong Kong-based Evergreen Products have 10 plots allocated for them, where they manufacture wigs.
Dollmaker Sonic Bangladesh Ltd exports their toys to Asian and European countries. Its manager Saidur Rahman said over 8,000 workers are employed by the company, while 75 foreign employees also work there.
Like many other workers, Rahima Begum, 22, and her husband Rafikul Islam, 28, of Harinchara UP of Domar Upazila, said they used to lead miserable lives before getting jobs at Evergreen Wig factory in the EPZ.
“At present we earn Tk20,000 per month,” the couple said.
They added that they have already built a house and purchased a motorbike.
When contacted, Lakshmi Rani, 20, of Itakhola union of the sadar upazila could not complete HSS exam as they were very poor.
She said her father Anukul Chandro Roy is a day labourer, and his income only enables them to eke out two meals a day for their family.
Now that she has a job at Evergreen Products at the EPZ, and earns Tk12,000 per month, she has purchased 10 decimal of land and built a house there.
General Manager (Communication) of EPZ Nazma Binte Alamgir said the volume of export has been increasing year to year at the EPZ. High standard of products are being exported to European Union countries, Australia and South and North America.
She added that over 35,000 local workers are employed in various factories in the EPZ.
Sources said gas supply was badly needed for the overall enhancement at the EPZ, which has been demanded by the local people for a long time.