The emergence of vast new landmass, locally known as ‘char’, near Sandwip is giving a rise in new possibilities of development and business, but it certainly needs a shot in the arm, said experts.
According to them, the government should conduct surveys and preserve the shoals as those have huge potentials for agriculture.
Marine science teacher of Chittagong University Moslem Uddin Munna suggested small-scale dredging of Bamoni, Hatia and Sandwip channels for land preservation.
“Urgent steps should be taken to preserve the new land which can change the map of the country and create new possibilities for the homeless people and the agriculture sector,” he said.
A 20-kilometer long shoal has recently formed near the western bank of Sandwip. Land reclamation and shoal development agencies say new shoals over about 15-20 square kilometres are forming on average every year in the Sandwip area.
The Meghna Survey conducted by Water Development Board in 2001 said around 2,000 hectares of landmass forms naturally each year but the process has seen a spurt recently.
Sources said some 600,000 hectares of new land has emerged in the area in the last 50 years.
According to them, the government has taken initiatives to make the shoals usable. Wild animals, including deer and monkey, roam the forest created by the Forest Department on Nijhum Dwip.
Economic Zone in Sandwip
The government is planning an economic zone on the new landmass.
Bangladesh Economic Zones Authority (BEZA) is working on it at the directive of the prime minister and the Geological Survey of Bangladesh has been tasked to conduct a land survey.
“Sandwip is another destination for Chattogram’s economic zone. Steps have been taken to set up an economic zone on the newly-formed shoal,” BEZA Executive Chairman Paban Chowdhury said.
“It’ll be brought under BEZA after a proper survey,” he said. “The Geological Survey has already completed its work and the report will hopefully be available shortly.”
Experts have advocated ensuring land communication between Chattogram and Sandwip, which is surrounded by sea. They also want Sandwip to be announced as a river port.
‘The neglected island’
After years of living in darkness without electricity, the residents of the island are finally seeing the light. The government has recently implemented a Tk144.5-crore project to supply electricity to the island through submarine cables.
Lack of power has prevented industries and urbanisation from flourishing. But among the upazilas, Sandwip ranks second in terms of receiving remittance, according to the central bank.
Asked about the economic zone, Deputy Commissioner of Chattogram Md Samsul Arefin said they were yet to receive any official order. “But there’re discussions about it,” he said.
“Since it’s a potential area, we’ll find out the best spot for the economic zone,” Arefin said.
Sandwip Municipality Mayor Zafar Ullah Titu said the island will see a massive socio-economic change if the newly-formed shoal is properly used for industrialisation.
He said the prime minister promised to set up BSCIC on the island but there was no headway. “Now, we hear the prime minister is interested in setting up an economic zone in Sandwip. If that happens, it’ll be the biggest achievement of the islanders,” he said.unb