Chinese Firms to Build $184 M Airport-Runway Extension in SE Bangladesh

Kamran Reza Chowdhury and Sunil Barua
Dhaka and Cox’s Bazar, Bangladesh
Chinese Firms to Build $184 M Airport-Runway Extension in SE Bangladesh United Nations Security Council envoys arrive at Cox’s Bazar Airport in Bangladesh, April 28, 2018.

Two state-owned Chinese companies are set to begin building Bangladesh’s first runway jutting into the sea, after the prime minister virtually inaugurated the $184 million project on Sunday.

The runway at the airport in Cox’s Bazar, a coastal district in the country’s southeast, will be extended – through land reclamation from the Bay of Bengal – so it can accommodate wide-bodied aircraft, said Mahbub Ali, the state minister for Civil Aviation.

“The government is funding the project to extend the existing runway. We have tasked the two Chinese companies to convert the domestic airport into an international one,” Ali told BenarNews on Monday.

“The current 9,000-foot runway will be extended by 1,700 feet, reclaiming land from the sea. After its extension, the Cox’s Bazar airport would host the longest runway in Bangladesh.”

The Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh signed a deal in February with a joint venture between two Chinese state-owned companies to extend the runway and make it an international airport.

The joint venture includes the China Civil Engineering Construction Corporation and Changjiang Yichang Waterway Engineering Bureau. The deadline of the project’s completion is May 2024, but Bangladesh has asked the Chinese companies to finish the work by 2023, Ali said.

According to a report by Xinhua, the state-run Chinese news agency, Ali said that the runway extension would enable the Airbus 380 – a double-decker jumbo jet which is the world’s largest passenger plane – to take off and land at the airport in Cox’s Bazar.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina said the runway would have to be developed in way to allow the world’s largest planes to land at the airport and refuel, reported state news agency Bangladesh Sangbad Sangstha (BSS). 

“I believe that after completing expansion work of the runway, the Cox’s Bazar Airport will be the most comfortable place for the planes travelling from the east to west or the west to east,” she said after virtually inaugurating he project.

The runway extension is not part of China’s One Belt One Road initiative. OBOR is Beijing’s geopolitical program to build a modern-day Silk Road through a network of ports, railways, roads and trade routes to connect China to markets in Southeast Asia, South Asia and beyond.

Faruk Khan, a retired colonel and former civil aviation minister, said that flights bound for Southeast Asia and the Pacific could refuel at the Cox’s Bazar Airport, because it is situated along the air route between the Middle East, Southeast Asia and the Pacific regions.

Minister Ali said the airport would open up huge tourism opportunities for Bangladesh. Cox’s Bazar is the world’s longest natural sea beach.

Former minister Khan said Cox’s Bazar could also attract Chinese tourists.

“Travelers from southwestern China now need to travel several thousand kilometers to see a Chinese beach. We can attract these Chinese tourists who can reach Cox’s Bazar in just two hours’ flight time,” Khan said.

“The international airport would help Bangladesh brand Cox’s Bazar as one of the best beaches in the world.”

Tourism is the backbone of Cox’s Bazar economy, said Abu Taher Chowdhury, a civil society leader in Cox’s Bazar.

“Now, foreign tourists must reach Cox’s Bazar via Dhaka,” Chowdhury told BenarNews.

“If the airport is converted into an international one, flights from different countries would directly arrive in Cox’s Bazar. It will open up new opportunities for us.”


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