600 families would get their new houses on Thursday in 20 just-built special structures having 32 flats with all modern amenities at Khurushkul area of Cox’s Bazar
A total of 600 families, who are climate refugees, are set to move into their new homes on Thursday, on the outskirts of Cox’s Bazar under Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s landmark Ashrayan project.
“Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina will inaugurate the abodes through a video conference from her Ganabhaban residence and virtually visit the structures,” Ashrayan’s project director Md Mahbub Hossain told reporters a day ahead of the event.
He said 600 families would get their new houses on Thursday in 20 just-built special structures having 32 flats with all modern amenities at Khurushkul area of Cox’s Bazar.
Each family will get a 456.07sqft flat in exchange of only Tk1,001 while all the buildings were equipped with a ramp system for people with disabilities, solar panels, safe drinking water, electricity, sanitation, waste management, drainage, cylinder gas, and burner.
Hossain said under the scheme, a total of 4,409 climate refugee families would be rehabilitated at the site as army troops were assigned to construct 139 five-storey buildings on 253.59 acres of land at a cost of Tk1800.39 crore.
He said the Khurushkul Asrayan Prokalpa would have four zones — residential, tourism, dried fish processing zone or “shutki mahal,” and a buffer precinct with greenery.
“The size of the structures and number of beneficiaries made the Khurushkul scheme the country’s largest rehabilitation project since the Ashrayan was launched in 1997 following a devastating cyclone in the southeastern coastlines,” Hossain said.
But the beneficiaries of the Khurushkul scheme were mostly victims of the deadly 1991 cyclone that turned people homeless, forcing them to take refuge at the airport area in Cox’s Bazar town where they virtually languished in crammed shanties in the subsequent decades.
Under PMO supervision, army’s 10th infantry division and Cox’s Bazar district and upazila administrations jointly constructed the 20 buildings in the first phase of the project, while the Khurushkul Asrayan Prokalpa was taken in 2014-15 fiscal on premier’s directives.
The military division’s General Officer Commanding (GOC) Major General Md Main Ullah Chowdhury, separately talking to the press, said before constructing the buildings, the ground was filled with soil and made climate change resilient, as the area was a low lying one.
“The ground floors are kept vacant so surges or flood waters could damage nothing . . . water supply system was given due emphasis installing tube wells and developing rain water harvesting systems,” he said.
Official records suggest Bangladesh launched its first such rehabilitation scheme for landless, homeless and destitute in 1972, ordered by the father of the nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
“Bangabandhu initiated the project after visiting Charpuragacha village of the then Noakhali district [now Laxmipur] on February 20 in 1972,” th Ashrayan project director said.
Ashrayan emerged as a follow up of Bangabandhu’s initiative and subsequently appeared as one of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s 10 initiatives.
“A year after assuming office as the premier for the first term in 1996, she [Sheikh Hasina] ordered the launching of the Ashrayan seeing people’s miseries when a devastating cyclone again ravaged the coastlines in 1997,” Hossain said.
Post cyclone initiative
He said the cyclone hit the coastlines on May 19, 1997 while the premier visited the scene the next day and initiated the rehabilitation campaign called Ashrayan.
“Since then a total of 3,19,140 families were rehabilitated and of them 2,13,227 were rehabilitated from June 2010 to June 2020,” Hossain said.
But the concerns of climate change prompted authorities to lay extra emphasis on the Ashrayan as the premier initiated Bangladesh Climate Change Strategy and Action Plan in 2009 alongside developing the Climate Trust Fund with own finances and enacting the Climate Trust Act.
“The Khurushkul Asrayan Prokalpa was taken in 2014-15 fiscal year following the premier’s directive as a sequel of that climate change campaign,” Hossain said.
The people to be rehabilitated in Khurushkul will be given training and loans while Shutki mahal, sale centres, and packaging industry will be set up for their employment.
On the other hand, he said, the tourism zone will be equipped with modern facilities and security arrangements.
He said a separate detailed project proposal (DPP) was now being formulated for the scheme as the premier proposed addition of some more facilities and amenities to it.
These are construction of rainwater harvesting systems, deep tube-wells, small bridges, a helipad, a power substation, canals, two jetties, a primary school cum cyclone shelter, a secondary school cum cyclone shelter, two separate cyclone shelters and mosques.
He said the site for the project was selected after monitoring the past 50 years record of wind speed and water height while for the protection of the infrastructure, a 4.77km embankment was constructed as it is located on the bank of the Bakkhali River.