Located alongside the Dhaka-Mawa Highway, just after the first Dhaleshwari Bridge from the capital to Mawa, the little-known village of Barabartta should have been housing a plastic industrial park by now.
The Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (BSCIC) was supposed to relocate the old Dhaka plastic factories to the park by June 2018 under the plastic park project.
However, the BSCIC has not been able to lay a single brick at the site even after spending Tk50 crore since the project began in 2015. The site does not even have a signboard yet.
But the BSCIC wants Tk264.45 crore more for the project. The revised cost of the project stands at Tk397.45 crore – nearly three times higher than the original cost. The proposal will be tabled for the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approval Tuesday.
Dr Mohammad Akhteruzzaman, joint chief to the Ministry of Industries, said the project could not gain pace because of problems over land acquisition.
"Land acquisition saw protests by the locals after the project was approved," he told The Business Standard.
"The acquisition problem has calmed down now," he said, adding that a total of Tk49.54 crore for land acquisition was paid last year. "Implementation will begin after paying the total sum for lands once we get the revised project approved."
He claimed the project cost spiraled as cost of land acquisition went up.
Reviewing the revised proposal of the industries ministry reveals that the original project had Tk63.16 crore allocated for acquiring 50 acres of land.
However, the revised proposal seeks Tk263.66 crore – over four times higher than the original estimation – for land acquisition.
The revised proposal states the project will create an environment-friendly production hub of plastic items, and as many as 370 plots at the park will generate 18,000 new jobs.
According to the industries ministry, there are 5,030 plastic factories in the country, most of which are private. Of them, 50 are large, while 1,480 are medium and 3,030 are small-scale factories.
As many as 80 percent of the plastic factories are located in the capital, while 90 percent of the small-scale units are in old Dhaka.
The revised project proposal said the industries ministry received the 50-acre land acquisition proposal in 2016 and then referred it to the deputy commissioner (DC) of Munshiganj.
The DC office issued a notice in August, 2018. After conducting joint investigation and resolution of dispute over land ownership, the office sent the land acquisition proposal to the land ministry.
According to the revised proposal, 33 acres of the required 50 acres is khas land (government owned fallow land) and the dwellers on it are blocking acquisition.
In the meantime, price of per acre of land was estimated at Tk1.26 crore in the main project while the revised cost for per acre land is up at Tk5.27 crore.
Shamima Nargis, member of the Industries and Energy Division at the Planning Commission, said that spiraled land acquisition cost will push up the plot prices manifold.
"It should be considered whether entrepreneurs will be interested to do business on expensive plots," she added.
Md Nijam Uddin, director of the plastic industry park project, said, "Illegal grabbers on 33 acres of khas land are the main problem. They even assaulted me at the project site."
He said that the original project estimated land acquisition costs 1.5 times higher than the land price. However, land acquisition now costs three times higher than the land price – pushing up the total project cost.
At Barabartta, some locals said they know nothing about a government project in the area.
Nannu Mia, a 60-year-old local grocer at the village, said he saw some government people two years ago.
"Nobody turned up in the area after protests broke out," he added.
Thousands of people live on the project site and adjacent areas. They said they will not evacuate the area without specific accommodation and job arrangements.