Bangabandhu Shilpa Nagar: a visionary industrial enterprise
The joy and gratification for making dreams into reality are enticing. In the golden jubilee year of independence, one can speak of a creative and visionary industrial entrepreneurship for the socio-economic development of Bangladesh that will build the future of the country.
In the thirteenth century, foreign merchants arrived at the land of Samatat through the river Karnaphuli. They brought trade, religion and culture. The history of the last seven centuries is the bearer of that context. Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar (BSMSN) is a successful initiative to fulfil the dream of regeneration of that congregational tradition in modern Bangladesh.
BSMSN is located at a distance of 10km from Mirsarai on the Dhaka-Chattogram Highway and 60km from the port city. It is being constructed on a contagious 33,000 acres of land on the seashore in Ichakhali, Charsharat, Char Mosharraf and Sadhur Char.
BSMSN with multi-dimensional features is a great junction of domestic and foreign investment, industrialisation and economy at the entrance of the south-eastern part of the country. One of the largest economic and industrial zones in South Asia, Bangabandhu Shilpa Nagar will be a state-of-the-art industrial city.
It is one of the priority projects of the government for industrialisation and job creation. Among the initiatives taken by the government to establish 100 economic zones in the country, Bangabandhu Shilpa Nagar has got the highest priority.
Initially, Mirsarai was started as an economic zone. Later, with the addition of Sitakunda and Sonagazi economic zones in Feni, the three zones have been renamed as Bangabandhu Shilpa Nagar.
The industrial city has been set up at a place about 10km west of Baratakia on the Dhaka-Chattogram highway with the seaport, gas, electricity and all kinds of facilities, creating a unique opportunity to connect with highways, rivers, seas and railways.
If completed, at least five lakh people will be employed in the initial stage. It is expected to create employment opportunities for 15 lakh people within the next 15 years and ensure a $25 billion export from this industrial enclave.
As a result, people from other districts of the country will also get employment and livelihood opportunities in this zone. One of the neglected chars has become an industrial area.
The locals are also thinking of housing for such a large number of workers and are building various types of houses. As it is a coastal area, dams and adequate sluice gates have been constructed, so the seawater no longer enters here.
Initiatives have been taken to modernise and expand the Baratakia railway station as the entrance to the industrial city. There will be passenger facilities as well as cargo transportation and storage yards.
The industrial city will facilitate both import and export. A container port will be constructed using the facilities of the Bay of Bengal coast.
There will be a seaport for berthing ships with a capacity of 40,000 tonnes. A medium-sized port will be built between Mirsarai and Sitakunda to serve the industrial area. There are also plans to build a small airport.
Suburbs and world-class tourist centres will be developed. It will be connected with the Bangabandhu Tunnel (Karnaphuli Tunnel) through the super dyke-cum-Marine Driveway to Cox's Bazar.
All in all, this industrial city will be taking shape as the modern economic hub of the country.
At the same time, BSMSN will be the first "green" or eco-industrial city in the country in terms of nature, energy system, and waste management. It has been designed to address five central elements of industrial development: governance, economy, ecology, resources, and community.
It will be easier to get a one-stop service facility in the city. The power plant will help attract investors.
Social infrastructure such as gas and water connections, central waste management, water treatment plants, housing, hospitals, marine drives, tourism parks, schools, universities, administrative buildings and residential areas will be established.
The BSMSN may be extended to Companiganj of Noakhali and Sandwip upazila of Chattogram district. The Internet of Things will be used to monitor the city's infrastructure, such as traffic, parking, water, and air pollution.
Among the companies that are already investing in the industrial city are Nippon Steel and Sojitz Corporation of Japan, Asian Paints of India, Berger Paints, China Jindun Group and top industrial groups of Bangladesh.
Entrepreneurs in BSMSN are engaged in a single or joint venture on various types of industries, such as garments and its supporting industries, agro-products and agro-processing products, integrated textiles, leather and leather goods, shipbuilding, motorbike assembly, food and beverage, paint and chemical, paper and products, plastics, light engineering (including auto-parts and bicycles), pharmaceutical products, power, and solar parks.
With the growing economic potential and industrialisation, the shift of rural people to urban areas has now become the biggest challenge in the country. As a result, population pressure is increasing in urban areas.
At present, there are 46,400 people living per square kilometre. As the urban population grows, Bangladesh may face challenges in meeting the growing demand for jobs and other public services, as well as housing, transportation, energy and other infrastructures.
A state-of-the-art industrial city can be the right solution to tackle the problems of urbanisation, which will accelerate the growth of the economy, lead to the development and meet the needs of present and future generations by combining economic, social and environmental aspects.
The primary goal is to ensure that critical infrastructure is economically sustainable, and public services are interactive, transparent and responsive. The BSMSN will pave the way for establishing a truly world-class business and industrial centre.
The author is former secretary and former chairman of the National Board of Revenue. He can be reached at [email protected].