Thousands of displaced Rohingya, who entered Bangladesh escaping persecution in Myanmar over the years, are currently living in temporary shelters at Kutupalong and Balukhali refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar.
Many refugees are also living outside of Rohigya camps, and the number of Rohingya people has already exceeded that of the local population in Ukhiya and Teknaf.
On November 23, Dhaka signed a Rohingya repatriation deal with Naypyidaw, but the government of Bangladesh is moving forward with the rehabilitation project for the refugees in Bhasan Char- a remote island near Hatiya of Noakhali district.
In the same month, Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) approved a Tk2,312 crore project to rehabilitate 103,200 displaced Rohingya in 120 cluster villages in that island.
Read Also- Ecnec approves $280m Bhasan Char project for Rohingya relocation
Under the repatriation deal, Myanmar has agreed to take back displaced Rohingya that entered Bangladesh during October of 2016 and since August 25 of 2017, after verifying their identity.
However, the repatriation process could take an unspecified amount of time, so it is no longer viable for the Bangladesh government to keep the refugees in makeshift camps.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, in an interview with Voice of America last September, revealed that the displaced refugees will be rehabilitated in Bhasan Char, until they could return to their homeland in Rakhine state.
Bangladesh Navy was tasked with the rehabilitation efforts in Bhasan Char.
The aim of the Bhasan Char rehabilitation project is to make the island environment habitable for people, building essential infrastructure and ensure security of its residents.
To this end, the Ecnec on November 28 approved Asrayon 3 - the rehabilitation of 100,000 forcibly displaced Myanmar nationals in Bhasan Char and essential infrastructure construction project.
Sources from the Planning Ministry confirmed that the government exchequer will bear the cost of the project, estimated to be around Tk2,312 crore.
The construction of the project started in July this year, under the supervision of Bangladesh Navy, and is set to be completed by November 30, 2019.
Read Also- How habitable is Bhasan Char?
Under this project, 102 cluster villages will be built for 103,200 Rohingya refugees. Land development and construction of embankment is also planned there, sources said.
1,440 barracks for housing and 120 shelters and several mosques will be built in Bhasan Char, along with an office building and living quarters for Bangladesh Navy officials.
Bhasan Char will also get roads, tube wells, ponds, water supply and sewage infrastructures.
Perimeter fencing and watch towers will be built to ensure security of the rehabilitation project. A fleet of vehicle, comprised of a microbus, 12 motorcycles, 23 human haulers, 40 pushcarts, 43 rickshaw vans, 4 LCUs and 8 speedboats, will be deployed in the project area for monitoring.
There are plans to build warehouses, fuel tanks, helipads, channel markings and mooring buoys, a boat landing site, mobile phone towers, a radar station and a power substation.
A CCTV network, solar panels and backup generators will also be installed there.
Bhasan Char is located 21 nautical miles away from Noakhali, 11 nautical miles from Jahajir Char, 4.2 nautical miles from Sandwip, 28 nautical miles from Patenga Point, and 13.2 nautical miles from Hatiya.
The impact of Rohingya on Cox’s Bazar
Sources from the Ministry of Planning and the Ministry of Disaster Management and Relief told the Bangla Tribune that the influx of thousands of Rohingya refugees is severely impacting both the national security and the natural environment of Bangladesh.
It is getting more and more difficult to accommodate the ever-increasing number of displaced Rohingya in Cox’s Bazar. The refugees have already destroyed a significant stretch of hilly lands and forests.
According to Cox’s Bazar district administration, the local population of Teknaf and Ukhiya is around 500,000 to 700,000, while more than one million Rohingya have taken shelter in the region.
The tide of forcibly displaced Rohingya is impacting in the economic, social and environmental sectors of Cox’s Bazar, which is a top tourist spot in Bangladesh.
To bring the refugee crisis under control Bangladesh Navy began to work the rehabilitation project in Bhasan Char since September this year.
A firm was tasked with creating a master plan for the project.
Read Also- Is Bhashan Char off the table?
To implement the master plan, Bangladesh Navy had recommended that the project construction must be begin in November this year, as the most of the island goes under water during monsoon season.
The Bangladesh Navy proposal also pointed out that if the project construction delayed, the rehabilitation effort may have to be postponed for up to one year.
In could be noted, acting Finance Secretary Mohammad Muslim Chowdhury had sent a project summary to Finance Minister AMA Muhith, asking for Tk25 crore for initial funding of the rehabilitation project.
The summary also mentioned that the prime minister has approved the Bangladesh Navy in principal to carry out project supervision in Bhasan Char. The Ministry of Land also gave its consent regarding the project.
Responding to query, Muhith said: “There are rules and regulations to allocate funds for a project. The Rohingya rehabilitation project will also receive its funding through these regulations.
“There is no room for confusion regarding this issue,” he concluded.
The article was first published on Bangla Tribune
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