Consultation needed for new Dhaka airport

Bishop says people must have a say on proposals in wake of violent protest

Consultation needed for new Dhaka airport
A Biman Bangladesh Airlines aircraft reporter, Dhaka, Bangladesh

February 4, 2011

A Bangladesh bishop says the government must consult and listen to the opinions of people from all levels of society before deciding where to build a new international airport.

“The government needs to talk to intellectuals, political parties and professionals before making a final decision. Public interest should come first,” said Bishop Gervas Rozario of Rajshahi, chairman of the Episcopal Commission for Social Communications.

“Having a new airport with modern facilities will be good for the country, more people can be employed, but the government needs to be wise and prudent in choosing a location.

The prelate was speaking to following violent protests on Jan. 31 at a proposed 11,500 acre site for the airport on wetlands south of Dhaka.

A policeman died and more than 100 were injured in the clashes at Arial Beel (swamp) in Munshiganj district.

Villagers said the new airport to be named after Father of the Nation Sheikh Mujibur Rahman would destroy their livelihoods.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina says a new airport is needed to cope with increased air traffic and is necessary to help in the country’s development.

However, she later backed down over the airport’s proposed location.

“The Awami League government is the people’s government and won’t do anything against the people’s will,” she said.

The government is looking for a new site, possibly on the other side of the Padma River, subject to a feasibility study, she added.

“Dialogue is a must to avoid such unpleasant and unexpected clashes in future,” the bishop warned.

He said the Tangail district in the northeast would be more ideal for a new airport instead of the disputed south.

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