State Minister for Disaster Management and Relief Dr Md. Enamur Rahman has said that Bhasan Char is among the safest places for relocation of the forcibly-displaced Rohingya citizens of Myanmar.
“Super cyclone Amphan damaged many parts of the country’s coastal belt, but Bhasan Char stood tall even against the stormy wind. It is thus proved that Bhasan Char is a safe island, where we can shift the Rohingya people from the camps in Cox’s Bazar,” the state minister told The Independent in Bhashan Char on Friday.
While visiting Bhasan Char on board a military helicopter, this correspondent accompanied the junior minister. Deputy Minister for Water Resources AKM Enamul Haque Shamim MP, Cabinet Secretary Khandakar Anowarul Islam, Principal Staff Officer (PSO) of Armed Forces Division (AFD) Lieutenant General Mohammad Mahfuzur Rahman and Senior Secretary of the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief Md Shah Kamal also visited Bhasan Char on the day.
The AFD organised the tour as part of witnessing the impact of cyclone Amphan in the country’s coastal areas – especially Khulna, Satkhira, Patuakhali and Bhashan Char.
Enamur Rahman also said the government will talk to the United Nations (UN) bodies like the UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR), World Food Programme (WFP) and other Non-Governmental Organisations (NGOs) for taking steps to shift the Rohingya refugees to Bhasan Char as the island has been proven to be of the safest places.
“We can shift at best 100,000 Rohingyas to the island as a temporary shelter for them, where they can take short training on their better survivals as well,” he added.
According to him, “The authorities concerned had shifted 306 Rohingya people from Bhasan Char to three cyclone shelters elsewhere fearing any possible cyclone-hit, but Amphan did not even hit the island.”
While talking to The Independent, Lt Gen Mohammad Mahfuzur Rahman said the authorities have constructed two different dams around Bhasan Char to protect it from flood and tidal surge-like natural calamities.
“The authorities concerned have also set up a police unit to ensure security at the island,” he informed, adding, “We think Bhasan Char is a better place for rehabilitation of the Rohingyas.”
He also said the authorities have taken some projects like cattle farming and fish cultivation for survival of the people in the rehabilitation centre.
Md Shah Kamal, senior secretary of the disaster management and relief ministry, said the Rohingyas have been facing various problems, including the risk of natural calamities. But they will be better off in Bhasan Char.
This correspondent also found the small total of 306 Rohingyas, taking sheltering there, in fresh mood and staying in their temporary residences constructed under the ‘Asrayan-3’ project.
The project staff were providing required food to the Rohingyas since beginning their stay at the sheltering houses.
Asked, the staff of the project said they cannot allow the Rohingyas to go outside the rehabilitation centre for the greater cause of their security.
Bangladesh Navy built a total of 1,440 barrack houses and 120 central shelters to accommodate some 102,000 Rohingyas in 120 village clusters.
Sanitation facilities, hospitals, bazaars, roads, dams, playgrounds, ponds, water extraction infrastructure, tube wells, water supply infrastructure and watch towers have already been built in this temporary rehabilitation arrangement.
Bhasan Char is located in the estuary of the Meghna river. It takes about 90 minutes to reach Hatiya Island from Noakhali mainland. From that island, a speedboat takes 30 minutes to reach there.
On November 28 in 2017, the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (ECNEC) had approved Tk 23.12 billion ‘Asrayan-3 project to accommodate about 100,000 Rohingyas. Navy implemented the project.
Currently, over 1.1 million Rohingyas are staying in various camps in coastal district Cox’s Bazar.