The opening of the much-anticipated Padma Multipurpose Bridge in June this year will spur a series of development projects, including Khulna-Mongla railway line and the economic zones in the region.
Hundreds of crores of taka are being invested around these projects. If the projects are implemented, the scenario of the southern region will be changed.
However, the prospect of an early implementation of Khanjahan Ali Airport in Khulna remains bleak.
The people of the district are unlikely to get the benefits of having an airport soon as the work of under-construction Khan Jahan Ali Airport is going on at a very slow pace.
Although land has been acquired for the airport several times, no one can say when the main work will start.
In 2015, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) approved the airport project, with an estimated cost of about Tk 544.75 crore.
The construction work of the airport was first planned to be completed by June 2018. But unfortunately, the main work of the airport has not started yet.
Wishing anonymity, an official of the Bangladesh Civil Aviation Authority (CAAB) said the reason behind the delay is uncertainty about the source of finance.
Firstly, it was planned that the airport would be built on the basis of public-private partnership (PPP). As it did not happen, it was later decided to implement the project through the revenue sector. But it is not being implemented for unknown reasons.
When contacted, Tushar Rajbangshi, the supervising engineer of Khanjahan Ali Airport construction project, said, "I am a field engineer, doing whatever work comes to me." Now I am overseeing the work of the boundary wall. "I can't say anything about why the main construction work is yet to begin," he said.
Land acquisition was completed in June 2020. Since then, no significant progress in the project work was made. There is currently no project manager for this site, he added '.
Actually, the need for an airport in Khulna has been under discussion since the sixties. During the Pakistan period in 1961, a site was selected for the construction of an airport at Mashiali in Fultala, 16 km from the main city of Khulna.
In 1968, the decision was reversed and land was acquired at Teligati area of Bill Dakatia. The decision was cancelled again and a land was selected in Katakhali of Fakirahat upazila of Bagerhat district in the eighties.
At last, the then Prime Minister Khaleda Zia laid the foundation stone of Rampal Khanjahan Ali Airport in Bagerhat acquiring 96 acres of land in 1996. Initially, various works including filling of soil for completion of stallport were also completed.
In 2011, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina announced the construction of the airport as a full-fledged one named ‘Khan Jahan Ali Airport’. Following the announcement, another 536 acres of land was acquired with an estimated cost of about Tk 544 crore. According to the project, it was to be completed by 2018 in a joint venture of domestic and foreign. But in reality, nothing happened except hanging a signboard at the airport site and the border wall.
Khulna city mayor Talukder Abdul Khaleq, a former MP from Rampal-Mongla constituency, said "We hope that Khan Jahan Ali Airport will be an international standard airport." This airport is a priority project of the prime minister.
The government is trying to implement the project in public-private partnership (PPP). Otherwise, it will be built with local funds like Padma Bridge, he added.