The people of the district are unlikely to get the benefits of having an airport anytime soon as the work on the under-construction Khan Jahan Ali Airport in Mongla is going on at a slower pace, causing uncertainty in starting flight operations and frustration among locals.
Although land acquisition for the project has been completed and construction of boundary wall is going on, albeit at a slower speed, the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh is yet to start the main work on the much-hyped project.
The government acquired 102 acres of land to build the airport on ‘short take-off landing’ system at Foyla near Rampal in 1996 following a demand of the people of southern region, according to official sources.
However, the construction of the airport remained stopped for a long time for reasons unknown. Returning to power in 2008, the Awami League government resumed its construction.
In 2011, prime minister Sheikh Hasina assured of constructing the airport as a full-fledged one named as ‘Khan Jahan Ali Airport’ following demand by the local businessmen and people of the area.
In 2015, the Executive Committee of National Economic Council approved the airport project, with an estimated cost of about Tk 544 crore.
Out of the amount, the government is providing about Tk 490 crore while the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh Tk 54 crore.
At that time, then planning minister AHM Mostafa Kamal assured that the project would be completed by June, 2018.
However, the construction work on the airport is yet to be finished.
After the ECNEC’s approval, the district administration started work to acquire 529.85 acres of land afresh for the project.
After acquiring the land in Bagerhat, the district administration handed it over the CAA on August 17, 2018.
Since then, local businessmen alleged, there has been no significant progress in the project work.
On February 13 this year, planning minister MA Mannan visited the under-construction Khan Jahan Ali Airport and he assured the locals of completing the project after talking to the state minister for civil aviation and tourism.
In May last, the CAA began the construction work on the airport’s boundary wall which is still continuing.
Rezaul Haque, manager of National Traders, the contractor firm of the boundary wall, expressed the hope that the construction on the boundary wall would be completed within the stipulated time.
Meanwhile, civil aviation and tourism ministry, in its website, mentioned the duration of the construction of the airport is - July 2015 to June 2020.
However, locals believe that it is unlikely for the authorities to be able to complete the project work within this period.
Expressing disappointment over the slow implementation of the airport project, Md Sheikh Nur Alam, convener of Mongla Samaj, said, ‘We’ve long been seeing that a signboard is hung at the airport site. But nobody knows when the flight operations will begin from the airport.’
Urging the government to immediately complete the construction on the airport, HM Dulal, a member of Khulna Chamber, said, ‘Fast communication network could be created for expansion of trade and commerce centring the Mongla port, the Sunderbans, tourism, shrimp industry and Rampal Power Plant if the airport is constructed.’
Additional deputy commissioner of Bagerhat Md Zahirul Islam said the land, after acquisition, has been handed over to the authorities concerned and the construction work on the boundary wall has started.
‘I hope the main construction work on the airport will begin soon.’
Contacted Zakia Afroze, deputy chief of civil aviation and tourism ministry’s planning-1 wing, said, ‘The construction work on the boundary wall has started. The project is being implemented under Public-Private-Partnership.’
However, she could not give any specific information when exactly the construction work on the airport would be completed.
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