The government is developing the country's largest industrial city "Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar" on 30,000 acres of land sprawling across Chattogram's Mirsarai and Sitakunda along with Feni's Sonagazi upazilas. The Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza) is implementing the "Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar Development Project" at Tk4,036 crore for eco-friendly (green) industries on an area of about 1,000 acres. In July 2021, I joined this five-year project stretching from January 2021 to December 2025 as its project director.
Before this, I was working with Beza and was already aware of this project and the economic zone. So I dared to take the responsibility as its project director (PD). If I had no prior experience with the Shilpa Nagar, I would have no choice but to give up. Coming to this stage of my duties as a PD, I am feeling good about myself as I am involved with a big change in the country's industrial sector. To discharge this duty, I have to work extra hours every day but I am not tired. I think all the hard work will pay off if the project is completed successfully.
It is difficult to manage a project. And this project is very complicated. Since we want to set up a green economic zone here, we have to abide by many regulations. There are much public-private partnership (PPP) projects in it. Since this project is being implemented with funds from the World Bank, we have to maintain everything to the specifications. As the project is attached to the Prime Minister's Office, everything has to be systematic. The Prime Minister's Office is closely monitoring it. We don't have any scope of making a mistake here and we will be able to overcome these challenges with sincerity and dedication. But the main challenge is, there are problems with the supply chain for the types of work that will have to be done in the project. We have no experience in these areas which is our main challenge.
Besides, the projects in the PPP model are also very challenging. This is a very big project which has a lot of complicated work. The challenge is that we do not know many things. We will learn things first and then we will implement that. We are in contact with foreign firms and are trying to learn from them how we can do something better. We can't even go on foreign tours because of the Covid-19 pandemic. We are still in the primary stages of the project. The challenge will be more obvious in the execution phase. The weather in the project area is also a big challenge. Rainfall is high here which will be a major challenge as well.
It will take prolonged labour to move forward in the implementation of the project. It takes a long time for a work which could be done in an hour if we were experts. We are trying to learn it. We have to learn about these issues from experts, consultants, partners, representatives of the World Bank and others concerned. The experience gained in this project has the potential to be used in other industrial cities in the country. We are constantly gaining experience in implementing this project. These experiences will play a positive role in the subsequent implementation of such projects.
The project implementation deadline is 2025 but it will not end on time because it started one year after the schedule. In addition, there is also the effect of coronavirus. Therefore, I do not see the possibility of completing the project within the stipulated time.
Under this project, two zones of the industrial city will be developed as green areas and various services will be ensured. There are plans for land development, setting up of a 30km four-lane road, water supply and sewerage system, administrative building, desalination plant, steam network, solid waste plant, biogas plant, canal excavation, power and gas distribution network and installation of solar panels.
One-stop service for all services and a skill development centre will be set up under the project. This industrial city will be built suitable for setting up world-class green factories. The total cost of the project has been estimated at Tk4,347 crore, of which Tk3,067 crore will come from the World Bank.
Asian Paints' factory will be the first factory to go into production in late February or early March 2022. Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina is scheduled to inaugurate the factory.
This project will become visible as soon as the initiative is taken to build a factory. Garments Village has been made suitable for factory construction. So investors in this sector could start building factories immediately. In addition, we urge companies that have been allotted land to come forward to build factories without any delay.
The author is Project Director at the Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar Development Project.
[The article is based on Abdullah Al Mahmud Faruk's conversation with The Business Standard's Shahadat Hossain Chowdhury.]