The country's largest private economic zone, Sirajganj Economic Zone Ltd (SEZL), may open for entrepreneurs within this year.
“We expect that we will be able to allot the plots of the zone within December this year or the first half of next year at maximum,” said the zone's director, Sheikh Monowar Hossain.
The zone is expected to create employment opportunities for five lakh people and bring in over $2 billion in investments. Its architectural layout designates space for 400 industries.
Hossain said the SEZL spent Tk 350 crore to acquire 1,035.93 acres of land, which was now being readied and levelled with sand.
Its physical infrastructure is also being developed, one being through the ongoing construction of a jetty.
Other facilities include dormitories and housing of five-star or equivalent standards for workers, one-stop administrative and logistic amenities, health and day care centres and technical institutions.
The zone will have its own means of sourcing water and will generate steam through a dedicated plant. It will very soon start setting up a 300-MW power plant for uninterrupted electricity supply while availing natural gas from the government.
The SEZL will dispose of its industrial waste through a common effluent treatment plant (CETP) characterised by zero discharge.
The construction of these facilities will start gradually after work on the power plant begins, said the zone's general manager, Md Shahidur Rahman.
He said the economic zone has already caught the attention of some foreign investors from China, South Korea, Japan, Italy and the US, while some local investors also expressed interest to set up factories, mostly textile.
Entrepreneurs can purchase industrial plots or take lease of the land as well as ready factories. Prices are yet to be fixed, Rahman added.
The zone's development cost, minus the power and steam plants and the CETP, is projected to be about Tk 2,800 crore. It is being borne by a consortium of nine companies and two businesspersons, Mohammad Kamruzzaman and Ehsan Habib.
The companies are Knit Asia, Rising Holdings, Mahmud Fashion, Ratul Knitwear, SM Holdings, Paragon Feed, Textown, Manami Fashions and Change Bangladesh.
They got the final licence from the Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza) on October 4, 2018.
“It's a dream project towards the northern part of Bangladesh,” said Paban Chowdhury, executive chairman of the Beza.
It is exceptional in the sense that the private sector has been provided the opportunity by the government to prove their mettle in setting up a large economic zone, he said.
“I believe it will ramp up the rural economy of northern Bangladesh,” he added.
Apart from road and rail connectivity, the zone has access to waterways for it lies on the banks of the river Jamuna. Sirajganj is the gateway to northern Bangladesh.
Chowdhury said the connectivity would be a big advantage for the zone's entrepreneurs. He, however, cited a challenge: the rehabilitation of people whose land had been acquired.
Monowar Hossain said they were working to this end, creating an ideal village where land, housing and other facilities like urban areas would be provided. “So, it will not be a problem at all,” he said.