The government plan to upgrade Saidpur airport from domestic to international has had an unexpected consequence--a rush to build homes around the runway.
Residents of the northern town believe the authorities will pay better prices for homesteads when acquiring land for expansion of the airport. As a result, many have gone on what appears to be a home-building spree on farm land with no utility connections.
“This is our little effort at getting better prices. The value of land in the area would double or triple in a couple of years. But that will be of no use to us, as the government is acquiring the land soon,” said Haider Ali, who recently built a house on his land near the airport, said.
Like him, many residents of Telipara, Bhujaripara, Baroishal, and Chowmohoni villages around Saidpur Airport have built homes mostly of corrugated iron sheets and bamboos.
Officials, however, have a less charitable view towards the landowners in the area.
Shahin Ahmed, manager of the airport, said, “The district administration and civil aviation authorities conducted two surveys in September-October last year. They prepared a map and took video clips of the area.
“Building new homes and planting trees will not bring better prices. The land will be priced according to what is in the video footage.”
In a similar note, Shuvashis Chakma, acting land acquisition officer of Nilphamari, told The Daily Star that the administration would pay fair and reasonable prices for land.
About 912 acres of land will be acquired by the government in Saidpur and Parbotipur upazila of Dinajpur, he added.
Saidpur is a commercial hub of several districts and one of the most important economic zones of the country. Four airlines operate nine flights a day at the airport.
The government plans to double the length of the existing 6,000 feet runway and build modern terminals and air traffic control systems.
Shahin Ahmed said, “The airport is being upgraded to promote trade, tourism and co-operation with South Asian countries like Nepal, Bhutan and the Seven Sister States of India. Land must be acquired for the expansion.”
Visiting the airport area recently, this correspondent talked to a number of people who were building houses. Most of them said they were hired to make the houses.
“After the houses are built, the land owners pay people to live there to make them appear inhabited,” said Zaber Ali, who was hired for Tk 500 by a landowner to take care of four homes built recently in the vicinity of the runway.
Moksudul Ali, another labourer of Chowmohoni village, said he built a house and was being paid to care of it.