Rohingya Relocation: Thengar Char not suitable yet

The government will have to build flood protection embankment, cyclone centres and necessary infrastructure and ensure supply of drinking water if it wants to relocate the Myanmar Rohingya refugees in Bangladesh to Thengar Char in Noakhali.

The recommendations were made in a report prepared by the district administration and the district forest department of Noakhali. The report was sent to the Ministry of Environment and Forests on Thursday.

The report was prepared after the ministry had directed the district administration to inform it about the present condition of the char.

Earlier this month, the Forest Department in a report opined that Thengar Char, where the government is planning to relocate Rohingya refugees, is yet to be considered fit for human habitation.

Thengar Char came to limelight after State Minister of Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam recently made an announcement about rehabilitating the Rohingyas to the char

The report, however, said the char can be readied for habitation within a short time through human efforts.

Talking to The Daily Star yesterday, Noakhali Deputy Commissioner Badre Munir Ferdous said they had sent a report to the Environment and Forest Ministry with some recommendations to make the island liveable.

“It’s the decision of the government whether it will relocate Myanmar Rohingya refugees to Thengar Char. But before relocating them, some essential requirements will have to be fulfilled,” he said.

Ferdous also said Additional Deputy Commissioner Subrata Kumar Dey and Assistant Forest Conservator Mohammad Ali prepared the report after visiting the char and that he forwarded the report to the ministry with essential photographs.

According to the report, the environment of Thengar Char was similar to other islands and it could be made liveable for human beings if necessary infrastructures were developed, sources said.

The report also stressed the need for strengthening security at the char if Rohingyas were relocated there, as the char is a haven for bandits and robbers.

Thengar Char came to limelight after State Minister of Foreign Affairs M Shahriar Alam recently made an announcement about rehabilitating the Rohingyas to the char. He had said that this was going to be a temporary arrangement as the Rohingyas would be repatriated to Myanmar.

Some 70,000 Rohingyas have sought refuge in Cox’s Bazar camps in Bangladesh amid persecution by the Myanmar army since October last year.

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, during her meeting with German Chancellor Angela Merkel on February 17, sought support from the international community, including Germany, to temporarily relocate Rohingyas in Bangladesh to Thengar Char for providing them with all sorts of facilities.

After the government unveiled its plan, Human Rights Watch urged Bangladesh to immediately drop its plan to transfer Rohingyas to an “uninhabited, undeveloped” coastal island.

According to a statement of the New York-based rights body, journalists who have visited Thengar Char, which emerged from river silt deposited in the Bay just a decade ago, describe it as empty, featureless and subject to cyclones and flooding.

During monsoon, it said, the island is submerged; anyone living on the island will have to be evacuated, and any infrastructure would be damaged.