DHAKA, May 22, 2020 (BSS) – Foreign minister Dr AK Abdul Momen today said super cyclone Amphan effectively binned safety concerns about Rohingyas sheltered in offshore Bhashan Char as it remained unaffected while the killer storm ravaged the Bangladesh’s southwestern coastlines bordering West Bengal of India.
“Many people thought that cyclone surges would inundate Bhashanchar but the tidal waves could not penetrate there . . . all who are staying at the island are safe,” he said in a statement disseminated through virtual media.
Momen said two mega dams, the outer one being 12 feet high and inner structure being 33 feet high, ensured the protection of the offshore island.
“Records suggest the island never had witnessed tidal surges above 15 feet high . . . foreign companies built the dams which were strong enough to protect Bhashan Char from cyclone storms or surges,” the minister said.
Bangladesh recently provided makeshift refuge to 306 Rohingyas to isolate them from fellow refugees at Cox’s Bazar camps as part of anti-COVID-19 vigil after their rescue from the sea following their abortive venture to land in Malaysia.
The island is 37 miles off the mainland under the administrative jurisdiction of Hatiya upazila.
The government rapidly developed massive infrastructures for over one lakh Rohingyas to be relocated there to ease congestions on their crammed camps in Cox’s Bazar where over a million of the forcibly displaced people were provided refuge.
But the relocation scheme remained stalled as various UN and aid agencies feared the island could be vulnerable to natural calamities like cyclones.
Dhaka insisted that Bhashan Char would provide the Rohingyas an improved lifestyle while they were held up in crowded shanties in Cox’s Bazar after they were forced to flee their home in Myanmar’s Rakhine state to evade persecution.
Momen said Bhashan Char could be a much better abode for the Rohingyas where they could live a normal life getting engaged in fishing, cattle farming and crop cultivation as means of their livelihood.
The existing Rohingya camps, Momen said, were exposed to high risk of landslides during monsoons while the population congestions there heightened the dangers of casualties during any such disaster.
“If anybody dies (in Cox’s Bazar camps), blame will come to Bangladesh authorities,” said Momen, apparently annoyed about the reservation of international agencies against the relocation plan.
He also expressed doubts whether the foreign aid agencies were opposed to the relocation plan for the sake of the Rohingyas or their own inconvenience.
Momen simultaneously criticized the attitudes of rights groups and different countries which suggest that it was Bangladesh which alone shoulder the responsibility of Rohingyas even if they were found stranded in deep sea — the Andaman Sea or Indian Ocean.