Thirty-two years into its establishment, the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation's (BSCIC) industrial estate in Satkhira remains plagued with various problems such as poor infrastructure, dilapidated roads and shabby environment. The water plant in the industrial estate also goes out of order oftentimes.
With the situation already less congenial for industries, the BSCIC estate has suffered a fresh and major blow by Covid-19.
Production in the industrial city has declined by over 50% amid the novel coronavirus pandemic situation, according to entrepreneurs.
In the pre-pandemic period, factories in the BSCIC estate used to manufacture around Tk10-12 crore worth of products every month but now the figure has come down to Tk4 crore, they said, adding that small-scale industries have been the worst sufferers during the crisis.
Industry owners said production will increase if facilities, including infrastructural ones, are enhanced.
Meanwhile, BSCIC officials tell The Business Standard that the government has taken steps to solve the existing problems. Besides, incentives are being given to the pandemic-affected small industries, they add.
The BSCIC industrial estate was established on 15.75 acres of land along the River Betna in Binerpota area of Satkhira town in 1988.
Infrastructure construction began two years later and 96 plots were created for industrial entrepreneurs.
Of those plots, 94 have been allotted to 29 factories. However, four of them are currently closed.
Industries set up in the allotted plots include fish pollen production and processing, dairy chilling, ice factory, bakery, plastics industry, plywood industry and other establishments. Around 4,000 workers are employed in the industrial estate.
GM Nurul Islam Rony, president of BSCIC Industry Owners' Association and owner of Messer's Rony Plywood Industry, said none of the entrepreneurs who have set up industries in the estate are well here.
Among 29 factories there, four are fully operational, he mentioned, adding 21 others are partially operational and four are closed.
Pointing out that all entrepreneurs have been affected by the pandemic, he said even though the government has provided incentives to businesses, investors in Satkhira BSCIC estate are not getting any benefit from it.
Sharing his experience, he said, "I have incurred a loss of Tk1.29 crore in five months. The government has given me an incentive of Tk1 crore at 4% interest. However, Islami Bank has deducted Tk72 lakh.
"The reason behind this is the incentive money cannot be withdrawn if the interests and dividend money of previous loans taken out from the bank are not paid."
"But, how will I run the factory with Tk28 lakh that I could withdraw after the deduction of Tk72 lakh from my incentive loan?" he said.
The total amount of losses incurred by the industry owners in the industrial estate would cross Tk100 crore, he continued.
Drawing the attention of the prime minister, he said, "If small and medium enterprises like us are not provided with low-interest bank loans, we will not survive. Big industrial entrepreneurs get loans but we don't."
Referring to the various problems in the BSCIC estate, Anarul Gazi, owner of Messrs Shakib Food and Chemical Factory, said this is not a place to set up industries. "There is a crisis of water and roads are dilapidated. As there is no drainage system, we've to face waterlogging when it rains a little. There is no boundary wall.
"Even though service charge is taken from the industry owners, no facility is given. As a result, entrepreneurs are suffering."
Sirajul Islam, owner of Bismillah Hatchery, said fish production in the BSCIC water is not good. There is a lot of iron in the water. The water plant is not working and the water supply has stopped. Liquid waste from industries is lying on the roads.
"Many of the industry owners have been forced to build roads at their own expense. Despite repeated calls to BSCIC authorities, no change has yet taken place. Even though 32 years have passed since its establishment, the BSCIC industrial city of Satkhira has seen little development."
Abdur Rashid, water plant operator at Satkhira BSCIC industrial estate, said the water plant remains out of use most of the time.
"The report has been sent to the divisional office. It takes a long time to get approval. Once approved, it will be possible to solve the water problem," he added.
Gaurab Das, deputy manager of the BSCIC estate, said the cabinet has passed a project on the development of eight industrial cities including the one in Satkhira. Infrastructure development work will start soon following the floating of tenders, he added.
"This will remove all the problems that businesses are facing," he hoped.