The development of tourism in Cox's Bazar and the potential for deep seaport-centred trade have been bolstered by the establishment of rail links connecting the region to Dhaka, Chattogram, and the rest of the country. These rail links will eventually connect Bangladesh to the Trans-Asian Railway, which also includes Myanmar.
In an interview with The Business Standard, Omar Hazzaz, president of the Chattogram Chamber of Commerce and Industry, spoke about how this railway line, built with an investment of Tk18,000 crore, will play a vital role in the economic development of the greater Chattogram region, including Cox's Bazar.
The much-awaited Chattogram-Cox's Bazar rail line is being inaugurated today. What is your opinion on the potential of this rail line?
Chattogram-Cox's Bazar railway line is a historic and glorious achievement for the entire country. The British Empire built railways up to Dohazari hundreds of years ago for their own purposes. Almost a hundred years after that, I am proud as a Bangali of the establishment of a new milestone for the development of the people and economy initiated by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina.
The railway line will play a big role in the economy of Bangladesh, including Chattogram. This rail link connects Cox's Bazar, the country's largest tourist hub, with the capital Dhaka, which has created the potential for exponential growth in the tourism industry of the region.
Moreover, this rail link will be connected with the country's first deep seaport, Matarbari. Through this, the cost of transportation for our products will be reduced and time will be saved. Thus, this rail link will play an important role in the country's trade and commerce.
Matarbari deep seaport, power plant, and international airport runway expansion projects are already being implemented in Cox's Bazar. What steps can be taken to develop the planned tourism, industrialisation, and urbanisation in Cox's Bazar around these projects?
Cox's Bazar is the most popular tourist centre in the country. As a result of unplanned urbanisation next to the world's longest beach, we are not able to realise the full potential of the region. The government has undertaken many far-reaching plans. I welcome these initiatives, but the entire Cox's Bazar-Teknaf coastline should now be completely zoned and brought under the purview of a master plan.
Countries like Thailand and Sri Lanka earn a lot of foreign exchange from international tourism. We should also use the natural beauty of Cox's Bazar, Teknaf, and Thanchi to make the country an international tourism destination. It will create massive employment and generate massive foreign exchange earnings.
What type of industry do you think would be more suitable for this region?
Cox's Bazar region is already famous for tourism, fishing, and the salt industry. Now more and more possibilities are opening around big projects. The region is now easily accessible by road, rail, sea, and even air. Therefore, it is possible to develop any industrial zone related to import and export in this region. But it has to be planned.
Once the railway traffic starts officially, what facilities will increase in the transportation of goods from Cox's Bazar?
The Chattogram-Cox's Bazar railway line will become a trade and investment hub for South Asia. Most of the imported products for Bangladesh arrive in Singapore, Sri Lanka, Hong Kong, or Malaysia by mother vessels. From there, it comes to Chattogram Sea Port by feeder vessels. Once the Matarbari deep sea port is implemented, mother vessels from any country will be able to anchor at the port.
And from Matarbari, lighter vessels will reach Chattogram Port and Bay Terminal. It will reduce time and cost and speed up the transportation of goods.
Matarbari deep seaport will reduce our shipment time by 60-70%. In this way, the exported products of our country will become more competitive in the outside world. Moreover, if the shipment time decreases further, foreign investors in Bangladesh will find it many times more attractive.
How is the preparation of the industrialists compared to the way the government is moving forward in the development of the economy of this region?
Bangladeshi entrepreneurs have been doing business for ages through many adverse conditions. Now the scenario has been completely changed by the prime minister. She brought revolutionary changes to every sector, including connectivity, energy, and security. She brought about drastic changes in all the prerequisites for economic development. I think every industrialist in Bangladesh is ready and able to take full advantage of the fertile field created by the premier.
This rail line will be connected to the Matarbari sea port. What benefits will that bring to the country's maritime sector?
Matarbari deep seaport is going to be a game changer for the economy of Bangladesh. The deep seaport in Maheshkhali will create a new milestone in the maritime world by anchoring mother vessels in 2026.
The Matarbari deep seaport, which will be built on the model of Japan's Kashima port, will become the controller of South Asian trade with ASEAN, the world's largest economic alliance, including China, which is Bangladesh's main import port.