HOUSING ROHINGYAS Govt okays Tk 2,312cr project

The government is going to build settlements in Bhasanchar island of Hatiya upazila for temporarily accommodating one lakh of more than 10 lakh Myanmar nationals sheltered in Bangladesh.

The housing facilities for the Rohingyas will be set up under a Tk 2,312-crore project titled “Ashrayan-3” with the country’s own resources.

The fast-track project was approved at a meeting of the Executive Committee of the National Economic Council (Ecnec) yesterday with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in the chair.

The approval came five days after Dhaka signed an “arrangement” with Naypyitaw on Rohingya repatriation.

Bangladesh Navy will start implementing the project next month and complete it by November 2019.

Under the project, 1,440 houses and 120 shelter stations will be built in 120 cluster villages.

Emerging from the Ecnec meeting, Planning Minister AHM Mustafa Kamal told reporters that the project was taken up for temporarily accommodating the Rohingyas.

The facility will be used for rehabilitating the homeless in the country after the repatriation of the Myanmar nationals.

More than six lakh Rohingyas have crossed into Bangladesh from Myanmar to escape persecution since the Myanmar military launched a brutal crackdown in Rakhine State on August 25.

Bangladesh had seen influx of Rohingyas from Myanmar also in 1978, 1991 and 2016. More than one million Rohingyas are now staying in Bangladesh.

The project includes construction of roads, water supply and drainage systems, power sub-stations, warehouses, helipads, mobile phone towers, radar stations, navy offices and quarters.

Before the project’s approval, the navy had conducted a feasibility study, which found that 4.5 lakh people can live in the uninhabited 13,000-acre island.

Seeking anonymity, a planning ministry official, who attended the meeting, said some of the Ecnec members said that words like “Rohingya” or “Myanmar citizens” should not be used in the name of the project as such wording may hinder the repatriation process.

Thinking that Bangladesh has already taken steps to rehabilitate the Rohingyas, Myanmar may not take back its nationals, the official said, quoting the Ecnec members.

But the PM suggested mentioning the words “Myanmar citizens” in the project, saying this would be helpful in utilising foreign assistance.

According to the project proposal, the number of locals in Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf and Ukhia upazilas is around seven lakh.

It has become increasingly difficult to ensure housing facilities for more than 10 lakh Rohingyas now living in camps in Cox’s Bazar. Hills and forestlands are being damaged every day in the country’s biggest tourist zone, it added.