Existing industries are using alternative fuels as there is no gas supply, which increases the production cost
- No gas connection in Bscic Netrokona
- 70 industrialists so far invested Tk72.20cr
- 44 industries cannot run due to no gas
- Most of existing 26 factories use alternative fuel
- at least 56,325 cubic feet of gas needed every hour to start all factories
Most of the industries in the industrial city of the Bangladesh Small and Cottage Industries Corporation (Bscic) in Netrokona could not start as the supply of gas has not been ensured even in 13 years.
Having to sit idle even after investing crores of taka, the industrialists are losing their enthusiasm. Moreover, much expensive equipment is being damaged from not being used.
The Bscic industrial city was established on 15 acres of land in Rajendrapur area of the district headquarters in 2007 at a cost of Tk6.49 crore. One hundred three plots were allotted for 70 proposed industrial projects.
In the long 13 years, only 26 industrial projects have been launched including six food and food products, two chemicals, an alternative fuel, a shoe, two garments, three animal feed and medicine, a mosquito coil, three iron and aluminium, three plastic cans, a spice, a mineral water production and two plastic recycling factories.
The remaining 44 major projects, which could not be launched till today due to gas dependence, include textile, engineering, chemical and pharmaceuticals, plastic rubber and non-metal, brick making, food production and processing.
According to the district office of the Bscic, 70 industrialists have so far invested Tk72.20 crore. Of these, 26 have launched projects and have been able to sell products worth Tk24.64 crore in 2019-20. The government has collected revenue worth 1.29 crore. If the large industries can start operation, the revenue collection will increase at least tenfold.
Most of the 26 factories are fuel-dependent. They are using alternative fuels as there is no gas supply, which increase the production cost. It is not consistent with the selling price of the product.
Tapan Pal, the proprietor of Priya Food Industries, said, "Since there is no gas, we are using wood bran as fuel. The price of bran is high. Besides, 5-6 additional workers are needed to be hired for collecting bran and drying that in the sun.
"While selling the products, we cannot make the expected profit due to high production cost. Once the gas supply is available, the production cost will be less," he added.
Zahirul Hasan Akand, owner of garment factory Messrs AL Akand Fashion, said, "We could not start the washing system for lack of gas supply. We send pants, t-shirts, etc to Gazipur for washing, which incurs additional costs and time.
Azizul Haque Talukder started Mahitaj Iron Industries with a loan of Tk2.5 crore from a bank. He used wood as a fuel as there was no gas supply, but could not see any profit. Having no other way, he shut down the factory a year ago.
For the same reason, Atiqul Islam's Bismillah Muri, Abdus Salam Selu's Polar Bakery, and Saidul Islam Rubel's Ma Fatema Coil Factory have been shut down.
Zahirul Hasan Akand, general secretary of Netrokona Bscic Industrial Owners Association, said many businessmen are going bankrupt paying loan instalments as they could not start their factories even after huge investment.
"We have been urging the area's ministers, members of parliament, district administration and senior Bscic officials for gas supply for over 13 years, but even today it has not yielded any results," he added.
He also mentioned the need for urgent redressal of several other problems in the industrial city, including waterlogging, inadequate drainage system, lack of firefighting sub-stations, lack of reservoirs and central waste treatment plan.
Akram Hossain, deputy manager of the district office of the Bscic, said the issue of gas supply was not mentioned in the development project proposal at the time of the establishment of the industrial city. Later, when the need arose, Titas Gas Transmission and Distribution Company prepared an estimate of Tk9.29 crore for installing gas connection up to the substation of the industrial city.
"In January 2016, the managing director of Titas submitted the proposed estimate to the director of Petrobangla (Operations and Mines). Later, the chairman of Petrobangla sent it to the secretary of the Ministry of Power, Energy and Mineral Resources in February of that year. However, after that the file did not move forward," he added.
Zaheer Farooq, president of the Bscic Industrial Owners Association, said at least 56,325 cubic feet of gas was needed every hour to start all the factories in the industrial city. "On August 30, I also submitted an application to the deputy commissioner on behalf of the factory owners for gas supply," he said.
Deputy commissioner Kazi Md Abdur Rahman said he was in touch with senior officials of the Bscic, Titas Gas Company, the ministries concerned to resolve the issue expeditiously.
Bscic officials said 650 workers are currently working in 26 factories in the industrial city. If the remaining 44 big factories are opened, a total of 4,500 people will be employed.