Bangabandhu Airport, Arial Beel wetlands, Bangladesh

In 2011 a proposal for a major airport in the Arial Beel wetlands was cancelled following protests by farmers and fisherfolk . Potential alternative sites would displace people and a recent proposal to locate the project in Char Janajat triggered protest.


Description

In August 2010 the government of Bangladesh endorsed construction of a major new international airport, called Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib International Airport, stating that around 2,428 hectares of land would be required.[1] The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB) shortlisted three sites for the airport: Arial Beel in Munshiganj, Trishal in Mymensingh, and Bhuapur in Tangail. [2] Initially, Trishal emerged as the favoured site, but because this would entail displacement of a large number of people, the government changed its mind. In the absence of a feasibility study or Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) land in the Arial Beel was earmarked for the airport. To the south of the capital city of Dhaka, Arial Beel is the third largest wetland in Bangladesh covering an area of 136 square kilometres. The land requirement for the project had more than quadrupled, to 10,117 hectares, as the plan now included a ‘satellite city’.

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Basic Data
NameBangabandhu Airport, Arial Beel wetlands, Bangladesh
CountryBangladesh
ProvinceDhaka Division
SiteMunshiganj District
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Infrastructure and Built Environment
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Land acquisition conflicts
Ports and airport projects
Urban development conflicts
Specific CommoditiesWater
Land
wetland
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsPlans for Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib International Airport (Bangabandhu Airport), named after Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, commonly known as Bangabandhu, the country's former president, were endorsed by the Bangladesh government in 2010.[1] In 2011 the estimated project cost was Tk 50,000 Crores USD5.96 billion. Land in Arial Beel wetlands was earmarked but an airport in this location was cancelled in 2011 following major protests. In August 2014 the government revived the Bangabandhu Airport project and began considering alternative possible sites.[9]

Japanese firm Nippon Koei Ltd was appointed by the government to conduct a feasibility study which, in 2017, selected Char Janajat and two other locations as potential sites.[10] According to aviation consultancy Centre for Aviation (CAPA) Bangabandhu Airport will feature three 4,420 metre runways on a site spanning 3,237 hectares. Bangabandhu Airport could be Bangladesh’s main hub airport and the project is expected to be complete by 2025 at an estimated cost of USD6.4 billion.[11]
Project Area (in hectares) 10,117
Level of Investment (in USD)5,960,000,000
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Populationseveral thousand people
Start Date08/2010
End Date04/02/2011
Company Names or State EnterprisesNippon Koei from Japan - After cancellation Nippon Koei conducted a feasibility study selecting alternative sites.[2}
Relevant government actorsGovernment of Bangladesh

Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB)

Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersArial Beel Rakkha Committee
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Informal workers
Local government/political parties
Neighbours/citizens/communities
Women
Fisher people
Forms of MobilizationBlockades
Street protest/marches
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Impacts
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Food insecurity (crop damage), Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Groundwater pollution or depletion, Large-scale disturbance of hydro and geological systems, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity
Health ImpactsVisible: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Deaths
Potential: Malnutrition, Other Health impacts
OtherHealth problems caused by pollutants emitted by aircraft
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Militarization and increased police presence
Potential: Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Outcome
Project StatusStopped
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Violent targeting of activists
Project cancelled
A policeman was killed and about 100 people injured when a number of people acted violently at an anti-airport protest on 31st January 2011. [4]
The proposal for a new airport, called Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib International Airport, in Arial Beel was cancelled due to protests, but new sites for the airport are under consideration.
Do you consider this as a success?Yes
Why? Explain briefly.Farmers and fisherfolk depending upon the Arial Beel wetlands organized a campaign which was successful in achieving cancellation of the proposed airport and 'satellite city'. Unfortunately violence at a major protest resulted in a policemen being killed, and about 100 people, police, protestors and observers, suffering injuries. The government has since revived the project and potential sites that have been identified would all involve displacement of people. Consideration of a site in Char Janajat triggered protests and fears of a repeat of the conflict over the proposed location of the new airport in Arial Beel.
Sources and Materials
Links

[1] Aparna Ray, Bangladesh: Proposed International Airport Stumbles Over Environment Controversy, Global Voices, 13 February 2011
[click to view]

[2] Can government start work on Bangabandhu airport before the election?, Dhaka Tribune, 10 December 2017
[click to view]

[3] Aparna Ray, Bangladesh: Widespread Protests Force Government To Back Down On Airport Project, Global Voices, 15 February 2011
[click to view]

[4] Mayhem in Munshiganj, Privo News, 2 February 2011 (accessed 3 April 2015)
[click to view]

[5] Human Rights Report 2011: Odhikar Report on Bangladesh, Odhikar, 7 January 2012
[click to view]

[6] Violent no to new airport, The Daily Star, 1 February 2011
[click to view]

[7] No airport against people's will, The Daily Star, 3 February 2011
[click to view]

[8] Shykh Seraj, Near soil, Near people, 14 May 2013
[click to view]

[9] Govt revives Bangabandhu Int’l Airport Project, NEWAGE, 21 August 2014
[click to view]

[10] Uncertainty hangs over fate of proposed Bangabandhu airport, Dhaka Tribune, 12 January 2018
[click to view]

[11] Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujib International Airport, Centre for Aviation (CAPA)
[click to view]

Other Documents

Protest against airport at Arial Beel Demonstration against the airport project. Source: move4world.com
[click to view]

Protest and highway blockade About 30,000 people protested against the airport, a policeman was killed and 100 others injured. Source: thedailystar.net
[click to view]

Protest against airport at Arial Beel Villagers protest on 26th January 2011. Source: Moinul Islam
[click to view]

Celebrating anti-airport victory Locals celebrate cancellation of the airport, make victory signs. Source: The Daily Star
[click to view]

Fishing in Arial Beel Arial Beel wetlands support many fishing livelihoods. Source: Skykh Serak, shykhseraj.tumblr.com
[click to view]

Arial Beel Rakkha Committee protests 31st January 2011 demonstration on the highway, stones thrown by protesters. Source: Shawkat Jamil, Farhana Barna
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorRose Bridger, Stay Grounded, email: [email protected]
Last update17/09/2018
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