With an easy location, enough manpower and world class facilities, Sirajganj Economic Zone, the largest and 100% green private economic zone in the country, is waiting for investments from local and foreign companies.
Around 60% of the land development work of the 1,041-acre economic zone located beside the River Jamuna has already been completed. So far, 14 local companies have been allotted 110 acres of land.
However, the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (Beza), which is constructing the economic zone, is preferring investors from Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, the United States, South Korea, Australia, India, Norway and other countries.
Sheikh Monwar Hossain, director, Sirajganj Economic Zone Ltd, told The Business Standard, "There will be 400 plots in the economic zone and will create employment for around five lakh people. Many local companies are trying to allocate land. However, as it is the first green economic zone in the country, we are waiting for foreign investors. We will give them priority."
"To make the economic zone fully green, maintaining international standards, we are using hundred percent local natural resources. PricewaterhouseCoopers (PwC) and Japan Development Institute (JDI) have jointly developed the detailed plan," he said.
The economic zone authorities say that green environmental standards would be maintained at all levels of the construction work including infrastructure, production, transportation, education, treatment and accommodation of the people concerned etc.
According to people concerned, only 60% of the land is being allocated for factories to keep the whole project green. There are plans to build various green infrastructures including playground, lake, recreation center, hospital, technical institute, rain water harvesting system and solar panel park on the remaining land.
Monwar Hossain said, "All the companies in the economic zone will use 100% surface water. Water will be taken from the Jamuna and supplied to the factories. The water and wastes used in the factory will be reused through CETP. Rainwater harvesting systems will be installed to use rainwater all the year round. There will also be sophisticated technology to protect air and noise pollution."
"There will be no chance of environmental pollution in this economic zone as per our master plan. Gas, electricity and water will not be wasted. There will be technology to use 100% of the natural resources," he added.
Agro-based industry, foreign investment preferred
The economic zone is giving special importance to the agro-based companies to include the agricultural products of the northern part of the country in the processing industry.
However, 14 local companies have been allotted plots to set up factories to produce textile, RMG, dyeing products, textile-oriented yarn products, backward linkage products and electric products.
Sheikh Monwar Hossain said, "Many local companies are coming to take plots for agro-based industry. They will create value added products. An Indian company is interested in taking the plot for preserving seeds collected from the local market. Jahangir Alam, a Bangladeshi businessman living in Australia and founder of TELEAUS, is interested in IT, telecom service and agro-based industry."
"First of all, we want more investment from foreign companies. We have contacted investors from several countries including Saudi Arabia, Japan, China, and the USA. We will get much more response after the completion of the economic zone. That's why we have halted allocation for now," he added.
Technical institute and hospital
The master plan of the economic zone includes plans to set up a technical institute to supply manpower to the factories of the companies investing in the economic zone. For this, people from the local areas and the northern part of the country will get preference.
There will also be a separate educational institution for people with disabilities. The companies will be asked to employ at least 1% physically disabled people for factories in the economic zone. There will also be accommodation for factory workers, schools and colleges for the education of their children and a world class hospital.
Sheikh Monwar Hossain said, "We have allotted 100 acres of land as a commercial block to make a world class hospital. A Norwegian company wants to build a hospital here. They are now looking for partners in Bangladesh. We can also work as a developer with them."
Companies that got land
The Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority gave licence to 14 companies in 2018 for construction of infrastructure in Sirajganj Economic Zone.
So far, the authorities have allocated five acres of land to Apex Footwear Limited, eight acres to Continental Garments Industries (Private) Limited, two acres to Dynamic Dredging, eight acres to Neet Asia Limited, four acres to MK Chemical Industries Limited, five acres to Ratul Fabric Limited.
It has also allocated two acres to Active Composite Mills Limited, 10 acres to Rising Holdings Limited, five acres to Rising Spinning Mills Limited, 16 acres to Jessore Feed Limited, 21 acres to Merina Properties (BD) Limited, five acres to Text Town Limited, 12 acres to Square Accessories Limited and seven acres to Square Electronics Limited.
Syed Nasim Manzur, managing director of Apex Footwear, told The Business Standard, "We will produce backward linkage products. We have a raw material crisis. We have built an eco-friendly factory and taken a plot here for sustainable business."
"The location here is perfect for building factories. Workers can be found easily. And above all, this is an environment-friendly economic zone. There will be all modern facilities including school, college, fire station here. Workers will have a better living environment," he added.
The economic zone is being set up beside the main road of Dhaka-Rajshahi Highway near the banks of the Jamuna River and Bangabandhu Bridge. As a result, communication will be easy by road, rail, air and river. The investors will get manpower easily as there are no big industrial establishments in the northern area of the country.
Monwar Hossain said easy access to gas, electricity and water will make this economic zone more attractive.
"A river port, an Inland Container Depot, a railway bridge over the Jamuna next to the Bangabandhu Bridge and a four-lane road are being built here keeping the economic zone in view. You can reach the economic zone in 3-4 hours from Dhaka Airport. Due to these facilities, this economic zone is at the center of interest of investors," he said.
Shaikh Yusuf Harun, executive chairman of Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA), said, "Sirajganj Economic Zone will be developed under Platinum Green Concept where the natural environment of the village will not be harmed while facilities of modern industrial city with housing and employment opportunities for skilled people will be created. There will be quality education, housing, healthcare, entertainment and communication system for the workers within the economic zone."
"People will reach the doorstep of development keeping intact the distinct qualities and uniqueness of rural life. An efficient and productive population will be formed in a healthy environment free from air and water pollution," he added.