Within a span of only two months, over one hundred dummy houses sprung up on agricultural or otherwise unused land adjoining the proposed air force base beside the current airport in Barishal's Babuganj upazila.
Many of the new houses, brick or wood-tin structure, cannot be accessed from roads in the locality, under Khanpura village of Rahmatpur union. Some do not even have any bathroom or kitchen. And the ones that have those, they lack power connections or access to fresh water.
Locals said they built the houses after hearing that a large area of the village would be acquired by the government for an air force base and the new houses would ensure better compensation for their land.
One such house owner is Sirajul Islam Pintu. He said so far, at least a hundred new houses have been built near the proposed base in the last few months.
"More than 150 of my relatives, who own nearly 20 acres of land here, have been building new houses. Although we haven't been notified of our land being acquired [for the air force base], we thought it would be helpful for us [if we did so]," he said.
Sabina Begum of the same village said she also built a new tin-roofed house in the area and, if necessary, she might stay in the new house too.
Contacted, Shahidul Islam, additional deputy commissioner (revenue) in Barisal, said under the proposed plan for the air force base, around 158 acres of land, which is about one-third of the area in Khanpura village, would be needed to be acquired from the village.
The district administration has started preliminary work in this regard and they would soon send to the land ministry their proposal for the acquisition of 158 acres of land in the village. The actual acquisition work would start only after the ministry's approval to the proposal.
Ensuring that no one would gain any advantage by adopting unethical means, Shahidul said, "We already gathered video recording of the entire area. So, the recent construction there will bear no additional benefit."