It is indeed bleak news that the future prospect of expansion of the country's largest sea port is hamstrung by lack of real estate. This is another very classic example of the shortsightedness of our planners who unfortunately had not been able to see the long term requirement of the country.
If the authorities had any idea of future expansion then it would have not leased out some 500 acres of its land on various terms over the years. The port's expansion prospect has not only been encumbered by leasing the CPA land, the intention of expanding the port downstream of Kafco may not be implementable because of the government's plan to build a 1300MW coal fired power plan in that area. It is likely to eat up more than 400 cares of the port's prime land.
Given that Chittagong port has continued to handle the bulk of the country's export and import despite Mongla, 60 Billion USD worth of cargo this year, we wonder why the 1998 study of the foreign consultant, that there would be quantum jump in the volume of trade through this port, was not taken proper cognizance of. The forecast of the study has been borne out by the reality on ground which shows a quantum jump of nearly 60 percent in terms of tonnage handled by the port and increase by 2 lakh pieces in TEUs in container handling.
With the prospect of a deep sea port still distant, Chittagong port will have to bear the ever increasing burden of country's overseas trade. And the port must expand. We feel that the job of the government is well cut out. There cannot be a choice between extending the port and reclaiming leased out lands.
The lease agreements should be revisited, and if possible revised or cancelled. We also feel the need to reconsider the location of the projected power plant which is likely to add to the traffic congestion.
And alongside the expansion of Chittagong port, Mongla port should be developed as a full-fledged alternative to reduce pressure on Chittagong port.