The public administration ministry has taken an initiative to build an integrated public office complex in port city Chattogram on a 110-acre char, which is equivalent to around 83 football fields, by the river Karnaphuli.
The complex, to be designed similar to Malaysia's administrative capital Putrajaya, is being called "Mini Secretariat for Chattogram" and will have as many as 44 government establishments such as offices of the divisional commissioner, deputy commissioner and rest house.
The authorities say the complex will be constructed within the next three to four years at Bandar mouza in Chattogram's Chandgaon ward.
Chattogram Deputy Commissioner Mohammad Mominur Rahman said a top-level government meeting at the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) in the last week of November agreed to study the project design and finalise it.
The shift will help save "Parir Pahar"
The deputy commissioner said shifting public offices to the new complex from their current location at "Parir Pahar" – which literally means "Fair Hills" and the heart of Chattogram's administrative and judicial activities built by the British rulers – will help save the age-old hills and ease the daily pressure on the surrounding areas.
"Dotted with too many offices, Parir Pahar has become risky. It is now bearing establishments four times more than the tolerable limit," Mominur Rahman told The Business Standard.
The prime minister has already approved shifting the risky and old offices from the hills and asked that no new ones be built. Subsequently, the public administration ministry started shifting the public establishments, including the offices of the divisional commissioner and deputy commissioner, from the hills.
Around two months ago, Chattogram district administration and Chattogram lawyers engaged in a face-off over the constructions of two establishments at Parir Pahar. Amid the stalemate, the district administration proposed announcing the 130-year-old court building as a heritage site.
The cultural affairs ministry also said it is considering announcing the site as an archaeological site.
All public services at the same place
The mini-secretariat is only seven kilometres away from Chattogram city zero point. Apart from the 44 offices, it will have a hospital for government staff, circuit house, training centre, convention centre, shopping mall, multi-storey car parking, school and college, nursing institute, transport pool, petrol pump, memorial, novo theatre and mosque.
"People will get all public services at the same place," Mamnoon Ahmed Anik, assistant commissioner (AC Land, Chandgaon Circle), told TBS.
"Land acquisition appears as a major challenge for government projects. But this project does not have that issue since khas land is already ready out there," Anik added.
He said a development project proposal is currently being formulated for the integrated office complex.
Visiting the project site last Wednesday, this correspondent noted that the district administration has already identified 73 acres of land at the strip on the Karnaphuli foreshore. The site has the river flowing on one side while the Marine Drive has been taking shape through a flurry of construction activities on the other side.
The project site is blessed with scenic natural beauty.
Locals call the swathe "Char Hamid", which emerged from the river around 100 years ago. There had been paddy and vegetable cultivation on the land even five years ago.
The district administration now has 73 acres of land under its ownership and hopes ownership issues over the remaining land will be resolved soon.
Focus also on future
Md Towhidul Islam, senior assistant commissioner and executive magistrate of Chattogram district, said the project design has room for more than 44 government establishments so that new offices, if required, could be built there in the next 40 years.
"The number of new public departments is constantly increasing. The biggest advantage of this project is that the newly formed departments will not have to spend additionally on office construction," AC Land Anik told TBS.
Deputy Commissioner Mominur Rahman said the project site currently has two roads. But considering the future, five types of alternative communication systems, including a Marine Drive and a Link Road, will be constructed in order to be connected to the integrated office complex.
Disaster prevention measures
A number of geological surveys of the char have been completed. The surveys suggest that the stretch of land is stable. However, the construction process will take up added measures to shield the complex from natural calamities, such as rising sea levels, cyclones and flooding.
At the same time, the natural environment will be kept intact, said Deputy Commissioner Mominur.
He said, "As the project area is on the river bank, there will be embankments so that the land can withstand natural disasters. There will be a planned drainage network to channel out rainwater."
Experts still sceptical
Urban engineer Subhash Chandra Barua expressed concern over the measures. He said, "Chattogram is a coastal area prone to natural disasters every year. The sea level is rising gradually. Against this backdrop, I do not think the government should implement such an important project on the river bank."
Civil engineering expert Delwar Hossain Majumder said shifting public offices from Chattogram city certainly will ease the pressure on traffic. He described the initiative as promising.
"But if all the government offices are moved to a single place, traffic pressure on the hub might appear as a new problem," said the engineer.
He suggested moving interrelated offices only to the new complex to have the traffic pressure spread out on the city.