‘Bhasan Char much safer than Cox’s Bazar camps’

DU Correspondent

7 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

‘Bhasan Char much safer than Cox’s Bazar camps’

A recent study jointly conducted by the Peace and Conflict Studies department of Dhaka University (DU) and the Central Foundation for International and Strategic Studies (CFISS) has found that Bhasan Char Island is a much safer place for the Rohingyas compared to the camps in Cox’s Bazar.

The island has all the facilities necessary for the temporary relocation of Rohingyas until their repatriation to Myanmar, the study said.

The findings of the study titled “Relocation of the Rohingya Displaced People from Cox’s Bazar to Bhasan Char: Opportunities and Challenges” were disseminated at a programme held at Nabab Nawab Ali Chowdhury Senate Bhaban of Dhaka University (DU) on Saturday.

DU Pro-Vice-Chancellor (Academic) Prof Dr ASM Maksud Kamal was present as the chief guest at the programme while Chairman of CFISS commodore MN Absar was present as the special guest.

According to the study, the camps in Cox’s Bazar are amongst Bangladesh’s most vulnerable areas, with a poverty rate far exceeding the country’s national average. This place is now accommodating around 1.1 million Rohingyas who have fled their country due to persecution by the Myanmar Army. The camps are filled beyond their capacity, with only 10.7 square meters of usable space per person.

Besides, ineffective planning coupled with mismanagement of water, sanitation and hygiene facilities, has led to environmental degradation in the area. In consequence, Cox’s Bazar Rohingya camps are very cramped and jam-packed due to overpopulation which makes the lives of the Rohingyas vulnerable.

On the other hand, Bhasan Char is very planned and built with adequate space, which provides better living conditions for the Rohingyas.

The study also reveals that the infrastructure of the makeshift camps in Cox’s Bazar, where the Rohingya families are living, is not stable due to overpopulation and congestion. Since the camps have been built by cutting hills and there are risks of landslides.

Another concerning issue is that increased deforestation also amounts to severe environmental degradation in the area.

On the contrary, experts on geology and geomorphology opined that the mainland and build up areas of Bhasan Char are considerably stable.

The island has a three-staged embankment system in place to protect the island, there are wave breakers that have been installed to weaken the waves. To protect the site from tidal floods and natural disasters, a nine-feet high and 12.1 km long double embankment has been built on the island which is being enhanced up to 19-feet in height.

Bhasan Char provides an excellent area where security is looked after by the constant presence of the law enforcement agencies and the absence of criminal gangs in the area. Internal and external security measures in Bhasan Char are maintained through the installation of security cameras, perimeter fences, watchtowers and police posts.

The project site has already been developed with 120 plots. Each plot consists of 12 buildings including cyclone centres, educational institutes, mosques etc. Each cyclone centre can withstand strong winds of up to 260 km per hour and will accommodate 1000 people and 200 cattle in an emergency. Additionally, there are buildings for NGOs and international organizations. Spaces have also been allocated for a day-care centre, orphanage and guest houses, the research finds out.

Although there are limited scopes of earning in the existing Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar, there will be means of livelihoods in Bhasan Char. The possible ways of earning include fishing, poultry farming, sheep and cattle rearing, cultivation of rice and vegetables, carpentry handicrafts, tailoring and providing different community services. Shops have also been set up in the designated market places and Rohingyas can conduct small business in the island as well, the study said.

The research team consisted of Dr Md Rafiqul Islam (lead researcher), Dr Md Touhidul Islam, Mohammad Shaheenur Alam and Maria Hussain of the Peace and Conflict Studies department of Dhaka University.