Sirajganj Economic Zone: Locals fear river erosion due to construction work

The Sirajganj Economic Zone project is being built near Sayedabad area on the west side of the Bangabandhu Bridge under Sirajganj sadar and Belkuchi upazilas Dhaka Tribune

DHAKA, Jan 13, 2019, Dhaka Trubune. Locals have been in trepidation over the non-government Sirajganj Economic Zone, as they believe the excavation work near Jamuna river for its landfilling might cause river erosion, reported the Dhaka Tribune.

The Sirajganj Economic Zone project, being built on near the Sayedabad area on the west side of the Bangabandhu Bridge under Sirajganj sadar and Belkuchi upazilas, will provide work for at least 500,000 unemployed people.

For the last few days, drums full of soil have been transported by trucks for the land filling of the area by excavating from the Panchshona canal, which is adjacent to the south of Jamuna river.

The region on the west bank of the Jamuna river has already been vulnerable to river erosion for the last few years, which was why locals demanded that the construction work should be executed under regular supervision and proper planning by skilled and experienced engineers of the Bangladesh Water Development Board (BWDB) to protect the river and its banks.

The work for project started on October on a 141-acre land leased from the government, along with the construction work for an industrial park on the north side of the Bangabandhu Bridge.

The economic zone project has been funded with Tk2,500 crore by a non-governmental consortium of nine companies and two individuals. The project will consist of garments companies, including knitting, dyeing and mercerizing factories.

The special significance of this area is due to the possibility of direct transport of goods to the economic zone from Dhaka and from Chittagong’s Payra Port.

According to BWDB sources, they had offered a plan to excavate soil from a char towards Tangail district under the Bangabandhu Bridge; however the plan was not implemented. Instead, they are digging up soil from the Panchshona canal.

Locals said the area was already susceptible to river erosion, as the river water flows through the Panchshona canal, which becomes even more dangerous during monsoon. That was why people were concerned about digging soil from the canal to fill the economic zone area.

They demanded that local administration and BWDB staff observe the area on an emergency basis.

BWDB Executive Engineer Md Ariful Islam said: “Sirajganj Economic Zone authorities have executed the project after leasing the land from the government. We learned that there were some instructions from BWDB’s design and planning division.”

BWDB design and planning division’s Chief Engineer Motahar Hossain told the Dhaka Tribune: “Although the area is susceptible to erosion, the economic zone authority has planned a small jetty and space for anchoring ships. For that, they need to protect the banks of the rivers.

“However, if they had filled the project area by excavating from the char under the bridge, it would have been beneficial for the bridge and there would have been less risk of river erosion.”

Sirajganj Economic Zone Project Director Md Manowar Hossain, responding to questions of the project being harmful, claimed that the area would not be made vulnerable to river erosion for the sake of this project.

He said they were well aware that they must ensure absolute protection and security of the project area.

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