The Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib Shilpa Nagar (BSMSN) seems to be taking shape day by day as investors have started developing the physical infrastructure of the 30,000-acre economic zone.
While visiting the country's future industrial hub last Friday, this correspondent witnessed massive development works, including earth filling, being carried out by various investors.
Meanwhile, businesses from home and abroad have come up with investment proposals worth $19 billion for the industrial city, said Paban Chowdhury, executive chairman of Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (Beza).
Of them, foreign companies, including Wilmar of Singapore, Adani Group and Asian Paints of India, Sojitz Corporation of Japan, Nippon Steel of Japan and Yabang Group of China, wanted to invest $10 billion, he said.
"The remaining $9 billion proposals came from local businesses. The major investors are: TK Group, Karmo Foam Industries, Mango Teleservices, BDCOM Online, Bashundhara Group, Siraj Cycle Industries, Abdul Monem Group, Star Consortium and Ayesha Clothing Company."
Out of the around 200 international and local investment proposals, 76 came from local garment makers, he added.
Moreover, three local entities—Confidence Group, Energypac and state-owned Rural Power Company Ltd—have expressed their willingness to invest nearly $3 billion in the power sector, he said.
"We hope the total investment in BSMSN will reach $30 billion by 2030, which will be equivalent to the total investment made on all other zones," he added.
Even amid the pandemic, the Beza received over $1.5 billion in investment proposals from home and abroad.
Factories of 13 different companies, including Asian Paints, McDonald Steel and Modern Synthetic, are now under construction, he said. "These factories may go into production by the next year."
Some other factories are currently waiting for the utility connections to start their construction work, he said.
Earlier, the World Bank handed over $500 million for the development of the industrial city and the global lender attached a condition that no factory should start construction work before getting utility connections.
The Beza executive chairman said they will use underground water sources for the next two and a half years to ensure water supply to the industrial units.
The water will be brought to the surface with the help of Chattogram Water Supply and Sewerage Authority, he said.
Within the next three months, the entire area of the BSMSN will be desalinised, he said.
Local companies want to pour funds into pharmaceutical, chemical, steel, textiles, garments, bicycle, automobile, tire and tube, electronics and ceramic sectors.
Both the local and foreign businesses which will invest in the economic zones will enjoy the same facilities, said Chowdhury.
Chowdhury went on to say that more proposals are coming in thanks to the growing interest of foreign investors.
However, he said the Beza is now declining proposals as it would not be possible to accommodate them all due to a shortage of land in the industrial city.
But land will be available when they will start land allotment at the Swandip site on the south bank of the Swandip Channel, he said.
At least 1.5 million jobs will be created in the zone and it would become the third largest city in Bangladesh after Dhaka and Chattogram, as around 15 million people will live in the adjoining areas, he said.
According to Chowdhury, just five year ago nobody could imagine that this char land would lead to a different Bangladesh by becoming the country's biggest industrial hub.
This zone will help Bangladesh materialise its dream to become a high-income nation, he said.
Jinyuan Chemical Industry, a Chinese company which exports chemical products to the US and Canada, was to set to be the first company to begin operations inside the BSMSN in March, but the Covid-19 outbreak delayed the process, he said.
"I have received all clearances to start operation of the factory," Wang Yang, chairman of Jinyuan Chemical Industry, told The Daily Star ahead of the coronavirus outbreak in March.
Yang had shifted her factory from China to Bangladesh in order to lessen the tariff burden while exporting products to North America.
"My first aim is to avoid the impacts of the US-China trade conflict and make my products competitive."
Yang had invested $6 million in the first phase of the factory, which created jobs for 50 people. "I plan to increase this investment in the future," she added.
The BSMSN will be the first public economic zone to go into operation as part of the government's plan to set up 100 industrial enclaves across the country to boost industrialisation, Chowdhury said.