The Khulna region needs a comprehensive strategy involving different government agencies to ensure sustainable development, protecting the Sundarbans from further damage and reducing risks of environmental disasters, a webinar was told.
"Accommodating the larger portion of the world's largest mangrove forest, Khulna is full of natural resources. It also has scope for further industrialisation and wide-scale development. We have to utilise all the potentials," said Prof Dr Abdullah Harun Chowdhury, dean of environmental science at Khulna University.
"However, we have a lack of research for the planned development of the region," added Shaikh Ashrafuzzaman, secretary-general of the Greater Khulna Development Action Coordination Committee.
They made the observations at a webinar titled "Industrialisation in Khulna: Challenges and Potentials," organised by The Business Standard on Wednesday.
TBS Editor Inam Ahmed moderated the event, the second of a webinar series planned in connection with the second anniversary of the business daily.
Utilising natural resources, enhancing connectivity of Mongla seaport with Nepal and Bhutan, reviving newsprint, jute, hardboard, textile mills there, building an expressway from Bhanga to Mongla, boosting activities of the existing export processing zone and starting work on the two planned economic zones can contribute to the development of the region, believed Md Mofidul Islam Tutul, a director of Khulna Chamber of Commerce and Industry.
He said Khulna now has tremendous potential due mainly to the Mongla seaport, and the Benapole and Bhomra land ports. "If the government can create connectivity to Nepal and Bhutan with the Mongla port, Khulna will see another regional economic boom."
The business leader also called for taking care of the Sundarbans, ensuring supply of fresh water, providing pipeline gas connections, making industries oriented to local products, and building a modern waste management system.
"The Khulna region has no comprehensive design for industrial development. As a result, mills and factories are growing scattered, and waste goes into rivers, creating natural calamities," Khulna City Corporation Panel Mayor Md Ali Akbar Tipu said, adding that all agencies should collaborate for well-planned development.
"The Khulna region is at risk in terms of climate vulnerability. The government should take special initiative to increase its climate resilience," he added.
Terming waste management a concern, Prof Harun said development should be well-coordinated. "The environment department must scrutinise all aspects before approving new industries," he added.
"We could not properly utilise one of the country's two seaports situated in the division. Besides, we could not keep on state-run industries.
However, frozen shrimp exports have given zest to the economy of the region but an American species of shrimp took over the global market," said Sheikh Humayun Kabir, vice-president of Bangladesh Frozen Foods Exporters Association.
"Now, we should go for Vannamei shrimp production," he added.
Journalist and environment activist Gouranga Nandy pointed to the rising salinity and water-logging as alarming consequences of climate-related disasters–- both natural and manmade.
Khulna lost its old glory as an industrial city after the shutdown of all major state-owned industries, he said, urging entrepreneurs to develop new industries using local raw materials to meet new demands.
Woman entrepreneur Shamima Sultana Shilu said that waste of coconut and betel-nut can be used as raw materials for innovative products like button and one-time cup-plate, which can give local women a living if properly trained.
Businesswoman Tamanna Tabassum Shova believes Khulna is a good place for women entrepreneurs as well as for cottage and small-scale industries. She called for special initiatives for women so that their potential can be well utilised.