The falter of outdated surveillance equipment at Dhaka airport could not be more exposed as in the delay in landing of a flight carrying the Prime Minister and her entourage from Saudi Arabia on June 7 last. This happened at a time when the authorities have launched a move to install a modern multimode surveillance system under a Public-Private Partnership (PPP) project, which experts think will put the national security at even greater risk. Dhaka, UNB News Agency Reported.
The delay in landing by the PM’s flight at the Hazrat Shahjalal International Airport was caused by some metallic parts of an aircraft left behind on the runaway, and the airport’s radar could not detect it in time. Three committees were formed to probe the incident. One of the probe bodies has finalised its report that raised serious question about the quality of the airport’s control tower and competence of the manpower deal with it, according to sources at the Civil Aviation Authority of Bangladesh (CAAB).
The report findings came up with suggestions that the radars as well as 12 important equipment of the airport control tower need to be either replaced or repaired as those are not working properly. The draft report says over 200 flights of different airlines take off from and land at the airport every day amid risks as the radars and guidance system that are being used at the airport are about 33 years’ old.
According to the CAAB sources, the primary radar was installed at the airport in 1984 while the secondary one in 1986. As the lifetime of the two radars expired in 1994 and 1996, the authorities repaired those several times, causing a serious problem to air traffic management.
Now the primary radar has almost become dysfunctional while the secondary one sometimes fails to detect air traffic, and it remains operational for only 12-15 hours a day. Under the circumstances, the Civil Aviation authorities are going to set up a multimode surveillance system, including radar and other equipment at the airport under a PPP project.
Applications of the entire system is deemed as the critical component of modern air traffic systems include airport surface surveillance as well as high surveillance updates in terminal and en route to airspace for enabling the functions of automation.
Security experts said if any private company gets the work to install and operate the surveillance facility, it will put the information security of the airport authority at risk. Contacted, civil aviation expert Kazi Wahedul Alam said the CAAB has enough fund to modernise the current radar system of the airport and it is not comprehensible why it is going on to update the radar under the PPP.
“I think, radar installation at the airport is a very important thing as it involves national security. But to me, the decision to install it under the PPP is not good at all,” he said. Brig Gen (retd) Shahedul Anam Khan said control of the operation of radar should exclusively remain with CAAB and no private company should have any access to it for the sake of security.
“It’s a top security issue as the radar works as a central trafficking control for all kinds of aircraft — both civil and defence– of home and abroad. If any private company gets the access through the PPP, it’ll put the security at risk,” said security expert Maj Gen (retd) AK Mohammad Ali Shikder. “If any private company is contracted for the important works of the airport, especially the installation and maintenance of radar, the secrecy and sovereignty of the State may be compromised,” he observed.
Maj Gen (retd) Abdur Rashid told UNB that PPP is a new initiative to speed up the implementation of projects. “Since, we have little experience on PPP therefore sense of insecurity and concerns are likely to prevail.”
A CAAB official wishing anonymity said the government will be able to earn Tk 200 million in 10 years, Tk 7.17 billion in 15 years and Tk 19.73 billion in 20 years if the project is implemented. “Why the government is going to hand over such a profitable project to a private company” exposing the country to security and terrorism risk.
Brig Gen (retd) M Sakhawat Hossain said he does not think it is a correct decision of the government to hire a private company for installing the radar at the airport. As the defence aircraft also use the Shahjalal Airport, the authorities need to be more cautious about their decision to set up the radar under PPP. “It shouldn’t be followed considering the existing security situation in Bangladesh,” he said.