Southeastern Moheskhali may blossom into an 'integrated' industrial hub as the country's investment promotion agency has planned to set up seven economic zones on the Cox's Bazar island.
The land area earmarked by the state-run Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) to establish the zones is over 21,000 acres, or almost a quarter of the total land areas of the Moheskhali island-upazila.
Of the land, titling and other procedures of around 50 per cent of the earmarked land have already been completed, according to the relevant government agency at Cox's Bazar.
Land acquisition, lease and other related procedures involving more 9,000 acres of land are in progress, land office officials told the FE.
This land area spreads over both Moheskhali and Sonadia islands. However, the islands are under one administrative unit (upazila) of Moheskhali as Cox's Bazar district.
But like all other sites, land development remains a big challenge due to the dearth of sands required for filling up the area allocated for industrial purpose.
"Land development is very challenging here because as earthen materials needed for land-filling are scare here," said an official of the BEZA.
He said another challenge is that if all the sites are developed, the forest areas in the island will come under threat.
One of the largest forest areas is located on Moheskhali, the island famous for producing salt, betel leaf and processed dried fishes.
He, however, said the authorities might opt for dredging from the sea as the last hope because there was no other alternative.
The BEZA is now developing Mirsarai and Jhaliar Dwip at Teknaf by dredging, although it did not conduct any study on as to whether it would have any impact on the environment.
Against this backdrop, the BEZA is concentrating on Dhalghata of Moheskhali, named Moheskhali Economic Zone-3, which is being built on some 1,347.44 acres of lands.
"We've already transferred the land in favour of the BEZA at Dhalghata mouza," an official of the Moheskhali land office told the FE.
BEZA executive chairman Paban Chowdhury said that the agency desperately wants to build the zones as it believes the site is attractive to the investors because of its geographical location.
"The draught is over 15 meters and that's why, the site's demand is high among local and foreign investors," Mr Chowdhury said.
Mr Chowdhury, who took office in 2014, said the government had planned to convert Moheskhali into a planned and integrated region for industries like power and energy, steel and petrochemicals.
As part of the plan, the BEZA recently handed over 410 acres of land to SPL Petrochemical Complex Ltd. for setting up a petrochemical production base and a large LPG terminal.
According to the new investment plan, the company will build petrochemical refinery, warehouse of petrochemical products and LPG terminal. Modern jetty facilities will also be installed there for loading and unloading facilities.
Local chemical group Samuda Chemical, a business unit of the TK Group, has already applied for land at Moheskhali, the BEZA officials said.
It has paid one per cent of its proposed investment, which is equivalent to Tk 45 million.
In total, the BEZA has so far received around Tk 1.86 billion from investors willing to invest in projects at Moheskhali.
SPCL managing director Mohammad Mustafa Haider Shibly said the active presence of the investment promotion agency would improve Bangladesh's position in the ease of doing business index.
Once implemented, he said the projects would add $600 million to the country's gross domestic product (GDP), $200 million increase in revenue while creating over 10,000 jobs.
"We've already made a joint venture with a South Korean leading conglomerate SK Gas. We can enhance the efficiency of our supply chain by using the expertise and technical knowledge of the Korean company," Mr Shibly said.
Leading Chinese steel manufacture Kunming Iron and Steel Holding Company (KISC) has also shown its interest to set up its production base in Bangladesh and sought 1,000 acres of space somewhere in the country.
Officials at the BEZA said that the investment promotion agency has decided, in principle, to provide the Chinese steelmaker with required space in the would-be integrated industrial belt.