Abandoned projects and foregone national interests

The Jaipurhat limestone mining and cement production project is the classic case of a highly prospective unfinished project in Bangladesh which was closed down after incurring huge expenditures on it. If completed in due time, it could achieve a great deal through reducing import dependence, creating a national asset, set up an example of using the country’s natural resource in support of the vital construction sector and in creating a large number of sustainable jobs and income.
But none of these objectives were achieved and the project today remains in an abandoned state begging an explanation for its present position. It is a mystery why this important and very promising project was given up to serve whose and what interests. If survivors among those who plotted the most unjustified demise of the project under successive past governments are still alive, they deserve to be charged for even at this late hour for their great irresponsibility and misdeeds and penalised for their conduct through the due processes of the law.
The Jaipurhut project traces back its history to the Pakistan era when geological survey in 1962 discovered infallibly the existence of a huge reserve of high quality limestone in the area. It was expertly assessed at that time that some 5,500 tons of limestone could be quarried from the site to produce 3,500 tons of cement on a daily basis for 26 years. Later it could be decided whether to mine it for a longer period. Saudi Arabia gave a grant of 30 million US dollars for it. Kuwait, Abu Dhabi, IDB and some other OPEC countries also agreed to finance it progressively. Some 60 crore taka was spent on the project–gradually– to establish 20 high rise buildings, rest house, staff quarters, roads, power lines and other supportive structures . These and other resources are still there, unused But surprisingly, the project was closed down through a circular– midway through its construction– in 1985 although a project director remains stationed there with a skeleton staff to look after scattered and rusting machinery and other assets which are slowly being stolen.
This very promising project deserves the fastest review and full resumption of activities for its completion in the highest national interest. It needs also serious investigation why it was abandoned. In the mid eighties another nationally important project, fuel oil production from Haripur in Sylhet, was closed down for unknown reasons. Allegedly, vested foreign and local interests were at work leading to their closure.


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