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Mongla airport construction to resume soon: Faruk

DHAKA, Nov 24, 2012 (BSS) - The government is planning to resume the construction of Khan Jahan Ali Airport in Mongla considering its potential for making Mongla seaport as hub of goods transit and promoting tourism.

"We have already sent an airport construction project worth Taka 450 crore to the planning commission that is now in Pre- ECNEC (Executive Committee of National Economic Council) for getting final approval of the ECNEC," Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister M Faruk Khan told BSS today.

After getting the nod of ECNEC, the minister said it would take one to two years to start flight operation from the airport. As per the project proposal, initially 5000 to 6000 feet runway would be build for operation of domestic flights, he said.

The minister said the previous Awami League government had taken the initiative to construct Khan Jahan Ali Airport in 1996. "But the last BNP-Jamaat government did not carry through the project on political consideration," the minister claimed.

The government acquired 97.55 acres of land at Faila in Rampal near Mongla in 1996 for the project and in the same year Bagerhat district administration handed over the land to the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA).

In 1997, the authority started filling the land. During the time Tk 24 crore was disbursed, sources said.

Faruk Khan said tourism and commerce in the area would get a huge boost, if the airport is built, as the Sundarbans and Mongla Sea Port are located nearby.

"Air connectivity near the Sundabans will definitely attract more local and foreign tourists to visit largest mangrove on the globe and to see its wild life including the habitat of Royal Bengal Tiger," the minister said.

He said the airport will also increase volume of goods transshipment to land locked country Nepal and Bhutan. China is also keen to use Mongla seaport for good transportation as it is closer to the Chinese southwestern cities than any Chinese seaport.

"We have already bought a dredger for Poshur Channel," he said adding after the dredging of Poshur river, the Mongla port will be a busy port within 3-4 years," he said.

Considering all the tourism and commercial potentials including the location of export promotion Zone (EPZ) in Mongla, the government has put emphasis on the construction work of Khan Jahan Ali Airport as soon as possible, he said.

The Khulna University of Engineering and Technology has been asked to conduct a feasibility study on construction of the airport, the minister said.

Bangladesh has three international airports, eight domestic airports including seven STOL (Short Take-off and Landing) airports. It also has several airstrips, some were built during the World War II.