Promise of protection from natural disaster

Uri grass is growing naturally along the shore of Bhasan Char Island. This type of grass only grows in areas where there is no possibility of erosion, according to officials of Ashrayan-3 project.

The officials are now working to put in place a five-layer protection system to save the island from natural disasters.

The Bangladesh government has spent around Tk 3,100 crore to develop the island, build infrastructure and a protection system against extreme climate events under a project delegated to Bangladesh Navy.

A number of international non-government organisations questioned the safety and protection system in the island as the government decided to relocate a group of Rohingyas there.

"We have developed a protection system after analysing the weather models of the last 176 years," Commander Md Anowerul Kabir, deputy project director of Ashrayan-3 project (the official title of the Bhasan Char project), told The Daily Star on Monday.

Strong concrete pillars have been installed along the 2.5km long sea shore of the island to weaken strong currents as its first line of defence. This protection fence, called "Screen Break Water", would weaken sea waves by 75 percent, said officials.

Gravels of diameters one to two inches have been dumped beside the pillars. This would weaken the sea waves by another 25 percent, they added. Besides, geo bags have been dumped on the layer of gravels to make sure that the island is protected even better.

Commander Kabir said they adopted a scientific protection system and there was no scope for erosion of the shore.

A natural defence mechanism has also been used in the island by planting mangrove saplings. Around one lakh saplings were planted in the island last year. Steps have been taken to plant another 10 lakh saplings, said project officials.

A former forest department official, who has 25-year working experience in mangrove forests, is helping the project officials plant the saplings.

Construction of the main embankment is going on around 100 feet away from the sea shore. The embankment will be 19ft high from the ground and 12km long around the new settlement.

"We will plant grass along both sides of the embankment to make it stronger," said Commander Kabir.

The entire island has also seen a mangrove afforestation initiative being implemented to protect it from cyclones and storm surge.

About possible waterlogging, Kabir said they have already built a modern drainage system in the island and there will be around 18 sluice gates in the embankment.

Seeking anonymity, a project official said they were planning to develop a dredging system in the island and they already wrote to the authorities concerned in this regard.

"We would dump the dredged up soil on the island which will create another layer of protection," said the official.

Each of the 120 cyclone shelters in the island are built on a plinth 12 feet above the ground. Each shelter can accommodate 1,000 people and 200 cattle.

Md Fakir, a cowboy who has been living in the island for nine years, said the island used to go under water during high tides.

"We did not see water entering the island in the last three years after the navy officials started the development work and built an embankment here," he added.

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