The government has approved a Tk198.79 crore project to build a dry fish processing zone in Cox's Bazar to further boost the sector's exports.
The project, approved at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) on Tuesday, will help the sector supply quality dry fish to both domestic and foreign markets, and generate employment for 5,000 people.
The government will build a landing shed, laboratory and training centre at the dry fish processing zone to facilitate production, preservation and marketing of quality dry fish through a use of modern methods.
The zone will also get 350 greenhouse mechanical dryers and 30 mechanical dryers, along with 36 dry fish sales centres, packaging factory, central waste treatment and sewerage treatment plants.The government will build three RCC jetties for transportation of goods as well.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina took part in the ECNEC meeting from Ganabhaban online, while ministers and secretaries were present in the NEC conference room.
The government approved four projects worth Tk4,753 crore at the meeting. Two of them are new, and the other two are revised projects, said the planning secretary and other Planning Commission members while briefing journalists after the meeting.
Zakir Hossain Akand, member of the Agriculture, Water Resources and Rural Institution Division under the Planning Commission, said, "The government will build a dry fish processing zone in Khurushkul area to facilitate the production, preservation and marketing of 14,000 tonnes of dry fish annually.
"The project will generate employment for 4,500 fishermen families who lost their homes due to the expansion of Cox's Bazar Airport. The deadline for the completion of the project has been set at December 2023."
Asadul added that the prime minister has directed the authorities concerned to be vigilant against any attempts by people – who are not from the evicted families of Khurushkul – to settle in the dry fish processing zone.
According to the project proposal, Bangladesh ranks third globally in producing fish from inland water bodies, and of the quantity, 70% are sold as fresh, 25% as dry and 5% as locally processed fish.The country commercially processes 8-10 species of sea fish as dry fish in the coastal areas.
Bangladesh exported 2,229 tonnes of dry fish in fiscal year 2015-16, which increased to 4,281 tonnes in FY2019-20, worth around Tk70 crore.
At the ECNEC meeting, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed the authorities to carry out capital dredging in the country's larger rivers, to keep the flow of water unobstructed throughout the whole year.
Providing more details, Asadul said, "The flow of the rivers must be kept in check. When the water level goes down, river islands emerge and when the water level increases, it causes erosion.
"The prime minister spoke in favour of year-long plans for carrying out capital dredging in the larger rivers as part of their maintenance."
He continued, "Sheikh Hasina directed the authorities to identify rivers that change course due to fast development of river islands, and conduct dredging accordingly. She also directed that facilities be built for preserving rain water during the monsoon.
"The prime minister has instructed the authorities concerned to propose the dredging projects before the ECNEC for approval after completing all related processes as quickly as possible, and ordered the formulation of a permanent plan regarding this issue."
The ECNEC approved a Tk560cr project, "Protection of Shingrabari, Patagram and Baikhola area in Sirajganj from the Jamuna River erosion," at the meeting.
The government also revised two projects – "Aminbazar-Mawa-Mongla 400kv power transmission line installation project" of the Power Grid Company of Bangladesh, and 'Upgrading the Panchdona-Danga-Ghorasal road into a 4-lane road with slow moving vehicles' lanes on both sides.'
At the meeting, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina directed everyone to prepare for the second wave of the novel coronavirus pandemic and asked all to wear masks, the planning secretary said.