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Tuesday, September 13, 2011
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Metro rail stops at air force red signal

Bijoy Sarani link seen as risky for security; financier Jica upset; meeting adjourned for today

Construction of the much anticipated metro rail looks uncertain as the government might bring another modification in its alignment in the face of the air force's objection to the current alignment running across Bijoy Sarani.

Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jica), keen to provide 80 percent of the $1.8 billion project cost as a soft loan, hinted to the communications ministry in February that it might not even give the fund if the alignment is modified again, said the ministry sources.

Jica already accepted a modification earlier, after it had completed feasibility study on a proposed alignment, and told the government that it will not accept further modification.

Although experts told top air force officials that the current elevated alignment across Bijoy Sarani will not hamper air traffic to and from Tejgaon Old Airport close by, air force officials do not agree with them. The airport is currently used by the air force and army aviation.

The air force has been pressing to move the current alignment to Khamar Bari from the Bijoy Sarani-Crescent Lake crossing, saying if the metro rail runs across Bijoy Sarani, it will cause serious problems in emergencies or war situations.

Experts earlier carried out an extensive study on the current route alignment and put it in the 20-year-long Strategic Transport Plan for Dhaka city. Cabinet approved the alignment on March 8 this year.

According to the original plan of the government, construction of the metro rail also known as Mass Rapid Transit (MRT)-6 was supposed to start this year and be completed in three years.

Under the circumstances, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina sat for a meeting with experts, ministers, and air force officials at the cabinet division of Bangladesh Secretariat yesterday to find a solution.

Dr SM Saleuddin, additional executive director of Dhaka Transport Coordination Board, gave a presentation on the current route. Prof Shamsul Hoque of the civil engineering department of Bangladesh University of Engineering and Technology gave another presentation on the route's Bijoy Sarani point.

Prof Jamilur Reza Chowdhury, Finance Minister AMA Muhith, Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain, and Air Marshal Shah Mohammad Ziaur Rahman discussed the problem.

"We could not resolve the problem today, but will sit again tomorrow for a solution," Prof Jamilur told The Daily Star after the meeting.

Jica representatives have been invited to today's meeting for persuading them to accept another modification, if that becomes necessary.

Prof Jamilur also said Japan might not accept further change in the alignment, and that might put the metro rail construction in an uncertainty.

Meeting sources said the prime minister hinted that she looks at the air force's demand as a minor modification, and might not have any objection to it. She wants to keep Tejgaon Old Airport operational, they added.

The metro rail to be constructed from Uttara Third Phase to Sayedabad is crucial, as it will transport around 60,000 passengers in an hour during peak time from one corner of the capital to the other, says the Jica study.

It was the government who first delayed the progress of the project by modifying the alignment on February 1 this year for its conflict with Gulistan-Jatrabari flyover.

According to that modification the metro rail route from Uttara Third Phase to Teachers Students Centre (TSC) of Dhaka University via Pallabi, Farmgate, and Sonargaon Hotel will remain unchanged. But from TSC, the route will be diverted towards Curzon Hall, National Press Club, Bangladesh Bank, up to Kamalapur Railway Station.

The route from TSC was supposed to touch Central Shaheed Minar, Fulbaria, Gulistan, and Tikatuli before reaching Sayedabad in the original plan.

Jica expressed disappointment over the last modification as well, since every alignment modification requires new feasibility study on the new section.

JICA GIVES DEADLINE
A Jica delegation meeting Communications Minister Syed Abul Hossain in his office yesterday asked him to give the final decision about the route within this month.

"We will take a decision after learning about the government's position on the alignment," one member of the delegation said, requesting anonymity.

He said Jica will be very disappointed if the government brings further modification in the alignment.

Jica Director Tomohide Ichiguchi, who led the four-member delegation, said his country will be able to provide the fund by January next year if Bangladesh clarifies its position within a month.

The communications minister said the metro rail project will be delayed if the alignment is modified again. "The loan sanction process of Jica will also be delayed by one year," he added.

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Does Bangladesh Air Force run the government or the government runs Bangladesh Air Force?

: Rahim Quashem

I am appalled by the naivety of the the so called experts who had planned the MRT without consulting Air Force in the first place. All these experts cannot build a runway in their lifetime; yet they had submitted a plan and got it approved from the cabinet that would leave the airport non-functional. If you ask a dentist to do a heart surgery, you can't expect more than this, I guess. Tejgaon airport needs to remain fully functional not only for emergency but also for carrying out disaster relief operations during the time of need.

: John Silver

Comments

  • Nasirullah Mridha,USA
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:20 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    Who is mighty in our country? Air force or the elected government? When for public interest metro rail is about to set up in city how could Air Force meddle in the government's business?

  • Mahbubur Rahman
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:31 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    Dhaka people favour to relocate Dhaka cantonment and old airport to a location outside Dhaka. If Bangladesh Army does not want to give their land at Pallabi and the Air Force does not agree on the current route, people's demand for the relocation could get very strong momentum as these structures are severely obstructive to their day to day life. People desperately need the metro rail which would be a great relief for them. I urge the Air Force and Bangladesh Army authorities to listen to the experts and agree on it it. Otherwise, this soft loan would go to uncertainty along with people's hope for a better Dhaka. We want to see a beautiful and livable Dhaka, not an inhabitable Dhaka.

  • Tabassum Haque
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:36 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    Communication ministry and other related organisations should jump on this lucrative soft loan offer from Japan. I don't know why Bangladesh Army and Air Force authorities are creating unwanted barriers. We don't want to see the old airport and Dhaka cantonment inside Dhaka. Relocate these to outside Dhaka locations and make us free from the unbearable traffic jam. We want to see Dhaka metro rail within the shortest possible time. We sincerely hope that the current govt would plan few more routes during their tenure. One route is not enough for 15 million Dhaka people.

  • Hasan
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:40 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    Against whom will BD Air Force fight? They need to understand that Dhaka needs to be a liveable city. The old airport should be shutdown and relocated. You cannot have a airbase in the middle of the city. The metro needs to go on. PM needs to show leadership here and reject Air Force concerns.

  • Shubhro Ahmed
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:52 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    Why are you extending the runway in north by 200 yards or so and release the same length in south? Also, I believe, combat aircraft and military transport aircraft do not need the length of a jumbo jet's runway. With the expansion of Dhaka city Air Force Base is now right in the middle of the city, something that is not good for the security of the Air Force. Considering all pros and cons let us try to accommodate things for country's development's sake.

  • Rc
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:57 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    War situations! Then move your airbase from densely populated area.

  • Anonymous
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 01:25 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    No need to have Air Force.

  • Furstrated
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 01:27 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    Someone explain to me, why do we need the old airport? And doesn't the air force already have an air base inside the cantonment? Why? I don't know, people need to escape from the wrath of the electorate.

  • Husna
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 01:59 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    It's a total shame that politicians are not thinking long-term. An underground metro will get rid of all these issues and save precious land above the surface. National security and independence should never be compromised. I pity those corrupts who don't understand this. All they care about is the pocket-change they receive by selling their power. If Kolkata has underground rail, why can't we have it?

  • Mohammed Shah Alam Khan, Canada
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 02:18 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    This news shows us how our bureaucracy worked in international field. This metro rail programme was planning since 1996 until today. Still there is no clear plan. At that time a Canadian company was also submitted the feasibility report to the government and they also propose to do the job but the then government did not accepted the terms and conditions. It is true internationally if a project approved then there was no alternative in the plan. But for a very especial reason it may done once if that have precondition. But what we see still Bangladesh is not able to complete the plan. They must study all concern before preparing the plan but that was not done surprisingly.

  • Sheikh Monirul Islam, Opee
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 02:28 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    We do not understand why Air Force is putting up an objection as the Tejgoan airport is not used for Air Force operation anymore other than VIP movement and occasional helicopter flights. The area is visibly open to virtually everyone and the nearby building are basically on-looking the base in general. So question of restriction in that connection are basically baseless. It would be a dynamic decision if we move the Air Force base totally. As it is occupying huge vital land right in the centre of Dhaka city. Whatever operation BAF has, they can go to Kurmitola. In fact, there was a suggestion to relocate the whole of Kurmitola Air Force base to facilitate airport extension works. So, then question of building new international l airport does not arise at a cost of 50,000 crore initially.

  • Sawgat Chowdhury
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 02:42 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    All member of Army, Air Force, Navy, BGB base should be removed from city limit. Why we need Air Force main base in Dhaka? Why not Jessore?

  • Rashid Chowdhury
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 10:40 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    It would be unfortunate for the Dhaka people if the project does not materialise due to Air Forces' objection. Hope for the better interest of common people, all parties will compromise and solve the problem amicably.

  • Rimon, Flying club, Dhaka
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 11:02 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    If Air Force finds it obstructive, please extend the existing runway toward north. A runway is already there. Just renovate and make the northern portion usable. That should solve the problem.

  • Mohammad M Rahman
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 11:08 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    The objective of transporting mass people is a great initiative and should be the priority under current traffic jam situation. Everybody must understand, how much working hours we are loosing besides public sufferings. The Air Force concern is negligible. It does not make sense to say during war or emergency, there will be chaos. In emergency everything changes and is controlled according to the situations. You cannot satisfy everybody by that now. In future, Air Force, Army HQ should also be removed from the middle of the city somewhere else in a planned way.

  • Ziauddin Ali Ahmed
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 11:21 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    As I have observed, any aircraft do not land at that airport except some helicopters. So, helicopters do not need that long runway to get down. And Air Force already has an airport at Kurmitola.

  • OpeeMonir
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:06 PM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    We do not aspire for a war situation. Maximum it could be an undemocratic takeover of the politically elected government and that's all. I have a serious doubt about their knowledge. If you draw a projectile across the elevated alignment, we may find some of those building along with Novo Theatre to go in case of considering the Air Force version.

  • Ameen Sayeed
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:13 PM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    Please shift the Air Force landing place out of city limit. We do not need Air Force base as the supersonic jets go to the Bay of Bengal for practice. Move all Army structure out of the city limit or make all cantonment area accessible for public movement to ease traffic congestion.

  • Anonymous
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 12:37 PM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    The armed forces should have been consulted. I am very surprised that they were kept out of route plan.

  • Jams
    Tuesday, September 13, 2011 01:42 PM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    Relocation of Air force and cantonment from the heart of the city is feasible and accepted option because Dhaka cannot afford any luxury to spare such a lucrative offer from JICA.

  • Musa
    Thursday, September 15, 2011 01:36 AM GMT+06:00 (147 weeks ago)

    I think Air Force has raised a valid objection. It will be difficult for the Dhakaits to comprehend the importance of this Air Field as they are not its biggest beneficiary. The biggest beneficiary is the thousands and millions of disaster affected people of Bangladesh for whom this airfield is historically used as the hub for all kinds of relief operations. During SIDR this was one of the busiest airfields carrying out 40-50 missions a day by both fixed wing and helicopters of local and foreign Air Forces carrying food and water to the affected people. Being in the centre of the city, many organizations, NGO and social workers directly come to Tejgaon airfield with their gods for delivery through aircraft during the disaster period. The foreign helicopters and fixed wing transport aircraft are also housed here for the disaster relief operations. We need this air field to remain operational if we are not oblivious of our countrymen.


 

 


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