Finally the Rohingyas are ready to go to Bhashan Char as they found it safe and habitable. Moulana Saber, leader of Camp-4 in Kutupalong said, "We want to return to Myanmar with dignity. If the repatriation process is delayed, we are ready to go to Bhashan Char."
The UN has praised Bangladesh's efforts to find alternative locations for Rohingyas to relieve the overcrowded camps in Cox's bazar, while insisting that the relocation be voluntary.
Bhashan Char, has been developed as an eco-friendly human habitat to relocate nearly 1 lakh Rohingyas to relieve the overcrowded mainland camps in Cox's Bazar. Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner in Cox's Bazar, Md Mahbub Alam Talukder, said, "We have talked with the Rohingyas. Many gave their consent to go to Bhashan Char. We will arrange relocation of those who want to go there after the date has been fixed."
The desolate island has taken a new look altogether with buildings painted pink. From houses for living, solar panels for electricity, biogas fuel for cooking and waste management system, cyclone centres, mobile phone network – everything is available for them. Bhashan Char is now ready to receive Rohingyas, said an official concerned. The project site has been developed with 120 plots, each consisting of 12 buildings, including a cyclone centre.
Project Director Commodore Mamun Chowdhury said, "We have completed 98 percent work of the project. We are ready to receive the Rohingyas. We have built a 9-foot high flood protection defense," Around a million Rohingyas took shelter fleeing a military crackdown in Myanmar in 2017. However, the relocating plan of one lakh Rohingyas from Cox’s Bazar to Bhashan Char has gotten stuck as the refugees are not interested to go to the island.
State Minister for Foreign Affairs, Md Shahriar Alam said, "The relocation will take place with the consent of the United Nations. The UN team will visit the island soon, then we will fix a date for the relocation of those who are willing to go. The rearrangement will be voluntary, there will be no pressure on them."
The United Nations opines that the relocation should take place only after an independent feasibility study, but it has to be voluntarily. In December 2017, the government took up Ashrayan Project 3 at a cost of Tk2,312 crore to relocate 1 lakh Rohingyas from Cox's Bazar to Bhashan Char.
The whole area is almost solar-powered with solar systems installed on rooftops of all 1,440 buildings, including 120 cyclone shelter centers. The buildings have around 52,000 lights. Around 1,000 solar-powered street lights illuminate the island's streets at night.
The ponds – each 5,461 square feet – will be used as alternative sources of water. Besides, there are also rainwater harvesting facilities in all cluster houses. Roads stretching around 42km have been constructed for internal communication. Human haulers and battery-run rickshaws will ply the roads.
The mobile phone network on the island is provided by Grameenphone and Robi. A fire station is also there. Each building has the capacity to accommodate 16 families in 16 rooms. Each family, comprising four persons, will get a room to live in. So one building will house 64 persons – meaning 768 persons in each block, according to the Bangladesh Navy.
Besides, there are four warehouses for storing food and other items. There are also two big lakes on the island. The cyclone centres can accommodate 1,000 people and 200 cattle during a storm. Two shelter centres will be used as hospitals, two for law enforcement authorities and two for UN representatives, general administration and the Refugee Relief and Repatriation Commissioner.
"We are awaiting confirmation from the government regarding alternative dates, as we have shared relevant information with the government of Bangladesh regarding the objectives of the proposed onsite visits, which are part of a broader assessment process," UN High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) Spokesperson in Dhaka Mostafa Mohammad Sazzad Hossain said on Sunday.
According to the Bangladesh Navy, the possible ways of earning for Rohngyas can be fishing, poultry farming, sheep and cattle rearing, cultivation of rice and vegetables, carpentry, handicrafts, tailoring and providing different community services. Bangladesh Navy has already planted paddy, vegetables and trees there.