In the face of protests, a parliamentary watchdog has proposed switching a hospital project to an abandoned site from the proposed Central Railway Building (CRB) area – a British-era hilly quarter in Chattogram that is cherished for its greenery.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Railways on Tuesday suggested Kumira in port city Chattogram as the alternative, said the committee chairman. Kumira, a 50km drive from the port city, already has a railway hospital abandoned since 1993.
"We have proposed about 13 acres of land in Kumira of Sitakunda upazila for the construction of the hospital," ABM Fazle Karim, chairman of the parliamentary body, told The Business Standard Wednesday.
"Since there has been a movement against the decision of hospital construction at CRB, we have proposed the alternative. The prime minister will finalise the location," he added.
The CRB, the headquarters of the Bangladesh Railway's east zone, is surrounded by hills, hillocks and valleys with a number of century-old trees, and a habitat for different bird species and wild animals.
Sujan Chowdhury, chief real estate officer of the Eastern Railway, said there was a tuberculosis hospital on the hill opposite the Kumira railway station. The hospital has been abandoned for about 30 years. The parliamentary committee has made alternative proposals for the construction of a hospital on the 13-acre site.
The tuberculosis hospital area is completely separate from the locality with the Bay of Bengal to the west and a huge mountainous site to the east. The hospital was established in 1955 spanning 39 acres.
In 2020, railways moved to team up with United Group to set up a 500-bed hospital and a 100-seat medical college under a public private partnership at CRB – which is known as the "lungs of Chattogram" city.
Protests flared up in July last year as the land handover to the company was initiated. Even senior ruling Awami League leaders of Chattogram called for resistance to the hospital construction at CRB.
The protesters said there is no open space in the port city. Even the capital Dhaka has several parks, but not Chattogram. The only big open space the city has is only the CRB.
Chattogram people also said they would appeal to the prime minister to protect the CRB.
Advocate Ibrahim Hossain Chowdhury, member secretary of Chattogram Citizens' Forum and general secretary of district Awami League (south), said, "The proposal of the standing committee is promising. But we cannot comment further without available details on the matter."