Despite security concerns voiced by experts and the Prime Minister’s instructions to be cautious in using radars, the Civil Aviation Ministry is going to finalise its decision very soon on installation of a multimode surveillance system, including radar and other equipment, at Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport under PPP.
Security experts warned that the implementation of such a sensitive project under Public-Private-Partnership (PPP) will only put the national security at stake.
They said the airport authorities should implement the project on its own fund instead of going for PPP taking the Prime Minister’s recent warning about the radar use into consideration.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on December 4 asked Air Force personnel to be more careful while using and maintaining aircraft and radars as those have been procured with people’s hard-earned money.
Civil Aviation Authority, Bangladesh (CAAB) has been trying since 2005 to modernise the air traffic management of the Dhaka airport by installing new radars as the current two radars — one installed in 1984 and another in 1986 — have become outdated.
In 2012, a local company, Karim Associates, proposed implementing the project titled ‘Multimode Surveillance System’ at a cost of Tk 190 crore under PPP.
In August 2013, the Cabinet committee on economic affairs (CCEA) decided in principle to implement the project under PPP at a cost of Tk 330 crore.
But, the project cost was later increased to over Tk 1,700 crore and it was sent to the Civil Aviation and Tourism Ministry for its approval after the evaluation by Qualification and Technical Evaluation Committee formed by the CAAB. The authorities said the cost was increased considering its technical and maintenance expenditures.
As the Prime Minister’s Office raised questions about the sharp crease in the project cost, the ministry sent it back to CAAB to revise the cost. The CAAB recently submitted the revised project cost to the ministry.
However, no one from the ministry or the CAAB agreed to disclose the exact figure of the revised project cost.
Contacted, evaluation committee member and CAAB director Wing Commander Chowdhury M Zia-Ul Kabir said the tender was floated for the project and four companies, including Karim Associates, joined the bid on June 22 last.
He said they have recently sent the project proposal to the ministry after evaluation. “Now, the ministry will decide it and send it to the CCEA for its approval,” he said.
Contacted, Civil Aviation and Tourism Minister Rashed Khan Menon said, “We’ll take the final decision on the CAAB’s proposal on radar very soon.”
He also claimed that there is no reason for security apprehension for installation of radar under the PPP.
However, security experts differ with the minister, saying if any private company gets the work to install and operate the surveillance facility of the radar, it will put the information security of the airport at risk.
Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain, a security expert, said the installation of radar at the airport is a sensitive issue. “I don’t think it’ll be a wise decision to hire a private company for installing the radar as it may put the national security at stake.”
He suggested setting up the radar by the government instead of going for the PPP. “The government can do it with its own fund as our current economic condition is good. It’s not comprehensible to me as to why the government is trying to involve civilians in such a highly sensitive task.”
Posing a question, he said how a foreign or private company can be trusted with the security measures of an important area like airport when the country is lagging behind in ensuring internal security.
Civil aviation expert Kazi Wahedul Alam also opposed the move to update the radar under PPP, saying the CAAB has enough fund to modernise the airport’s current radar system.
Mentioning that the airport’s radar installation is a very important thing, he said, “If the government does the job, there will be no security concern.”
He, however, said some other tasks, including modernisation of ground handling services, which do not involve national security, can be done under PPP.
Another retired army official, Abdur Rashid, told UNB that PPP is a new initiative to speed up the implementation of projects. “Since, we have little experience about PPP, a sense of insecurity, and concerns are likely to prevail.”
Security expert AK Mohammad Ali Shikder said if any private company is hired for important works of the airport, especially the installation and maintenance of radar, the secrecy and sovereignty of the state might be compromised.