The Matarbari Port Development project, a Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica) funded fast-track project of the government inaugurated in 2020, is now caught in land acquisition delay as Cox's Bazar district administration is yet to hand over the land to the implementing agency Chattogram Port Authority.
The port authority in June paid Tk75.11 crore land acquisition cheque to the district administration, and subsequently reached out to Cox's Bazar deputy commissioner multiple times. But the district administration neither replied to the letters from the port authority nor handed over the land in the last two and a half months.
"By sending letters and making verbal requests, we have repeatedly asked the district administration to hand over the acquired land to us. But it has not been responding," said Mir Zahid Hasan, director of the Matarbari Port Development project.
He noted that the land accusation delay could set back the overall implementation time for the project.
On 2 June, the Chattogram Port Authority – the implementing agency of the Matarbari Port Development project – handed over the cheque to the district admin as acquisition value for around 283 acres of land in Cox's Bazar. The district administration was supposed to disburse the amount to the land owners and immediately hand over the land to the port authority.
Sources at the Chattogram Port Authority have said that three letters have been sent to the Cox's Bazar deputy commissioner seeking possession of the land – two in June and the last one in August.
"Matarbari Port Development is a fast-track project and the Prime Minister's Office monitors it regularly. Therefore, an immediate handover of the 283 acres of land is requested," read the letters.
Project officials said as many as 229 people have plots at the project site, and some of the owners are still residing on the land. The land owners are yet to be notified by the district administration about receiving the money for their plots and moving away.
"Lockdown delayed us," said Al Amin Parvege, additional deputy commissioner (Revenue) of Cox's Bazar, adding the department is now preparing a list of the plot owners.
He did not mention any specific date for the handover, but said it would be "soon".
Matarbari Deep Sea Port is being constructed at Moheshkhali upazila's Matarbari and Dhalghata area in Cox's Bazar. The Chattogram Port Authority under the Ministry of Shipping is implementing the work.
On 16 November 2020, the Chattogram Port Authority inaugurated the project at a press briefing at its office.
Ships with an 18.5 metre draft will be able to dock at the port once its construction is completed in mid-2025. The port will be hosting cargo carriers with a capacity of 8,000-10,000 containers. The initial design of the deep seaport supports 8 lakh containers per year while the capacity could be enhanced further with additional jetties.
Currently, 92% of the country's trade is conducted through Chattogram port, which has been struggling to cope with the growing volume of trade by sea.