Abandoned Ishwardi Airport ‘looks for reasons to exist’
Reported by: Abdul Mozid, UNB Correspondent
Reported on: Jun 15, 2012 12:11 pm
Reported in: National
Pabna, June 15 (UNB) – The airport was meant to be a boost for the local economy, bringing in visitors and connecting the district town with the major cities of the country, but now locals wonder if it was at all a worthwhile investment.Set up on 486.65 acres of land half a century ago, Ishwardi Airport was closed 16 years back on the plea of staggering losses due to dwindling number of passengers on this important air route.Ishwardi Airport was set up at the center of economic zones, industrial belt and business hubs of north Bengal in 1962 with all the facilities that an aerodrome should have. It was once considered as the aerial gateway to Silk City (Rajshahi), Syedpur, Rangpur and the rest of north Bengal, and it had played a pivotal role in the growth and expansion of business on both sides of the Jamuna River, greatly contributing to the development of industries in Pabna, Kushtia, Chuadanga, Sirajganj and Natore districts, according to officials at the local administration.They said Export Processing Zones (EPZ), Milk Vita dairy farm, Baghabari oil depots, poultry farms, Square Pharmaceutical, Pulse Research Center, Sugarcane Research Institute have been set up because of the Ishwardi Airport. Rooppur was also selected as a site for a nuclear power plant for the same reason.A local public representative said Ishwardi Airport has now been reduced to a skeleton as major part of it (344.46 acres land) was handed over to Bangladesh Army a few years ago to build a dairy farm on it. He said after the takeover by the army of about three-fourth of its land, some part of it is being used by a vested quarter and the airport has been squeezed to only 92.19 acres though its main infrastructures still stand.The district administration officials said the people who live in Riajshahi, Sirajganj, Pabna, Bogra, Natore, Kushtia, Ishwardi town and its surrounding areas, have been demanding for the last 15 years to reopen the airport.Local businessmen, industrialists and chamber leaders also demanded that the airport be reopened, at least for private domestic airlines to operate their flights on the abandoned Dhaka-Ishwardi-Rajshahi-Dhaka and Dhaka-Ishwardi-Syedpur-Dhaka route for the sake of smooth growth of business and industries as well as tourism in the north and northwestern regions.President of Sirajganj Chamber of Commerce and Industry Syed Syed Abdul Rauf Mukta said reopening of the airport will help spur development activities in the northern region as did the opening of Jamuna Bridge. Mahbubul Alam Mukul, senior vice president of Pabna Chamber of Commerce and Industry said Pabna is a fastest-growing industrial town as there is an EPZ in Ishwardi upazila which can employ over 1 lakh. Alhaj Abdul Latif Bishwas, chairman of Givency Group, a Dhaka-based conglomerate, said there are many sugar mills, pharmaceuticals and other manufacturing industries in around Pabna district. “Many businesspeople need to travel from capital Dhaka, Rajshahi, Jessore north Bengal and even from Europe and India to the region. Travelling by road and rail is very time consuming today. Had Ishwardi Airport not been closed they would have preferred air route to visit the region.”Echoing him Aktaruzzaman Bablu, Mayor of Ishwardi town, Aminul Huq, president of Chamber of Commerce and Industry of Natore district, which borders Ishwardi, businessman Akram Ali Khan, chairman of MAS Group and Khatib Abdul Abdul Jahid, owner of a garment factory in Gazipur district, said reopening of the airport is the demand of all air travelers. Talking to UNB local MP Shamsur Rahman Sharif Dilu on Thursday said: “It was my election pledge to reopen the airport. A letter was sent to Civil Aviation Ministry by the local administration suggesting reopening of it, which I strongly supported. “I personally met and requested the authorities concerned to immediately take a decision to bring the airport back to its original shape and start flight operation. I hope the government will take a decision soon.” Contacted, Deputy Commissioner of Pabna Mostafizur Rahman said he sent several letters to the Civil Aviation Ministry containing the demand of the people of the district to reopen the airport. “The last one I sent to the ministry last year was returned to me asking to assess its economic viability whether the required number of passengers will travel if it is reopened,” he informed. “I sent the reply and the ministry may take a decision in favour of reopening it,” he said.
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