The department of archaeology is going to build a museum in Kuakata to preserve a historic 200-year-old wooden boat discovered last year, hoping it would “improve” the region’s tourism potential.
The project was launched through a formal cornerstone-laying ceremony on Wednesday, at the Zero Point area in Kuakata on the shores of the Bay of Bengal.
Mahbubur Rahman, local lawmaker and state minister for water resources, Shirin Akhtar, director general of the Department of Archaeology (DoA), Yves Marre, a French-born Bangladeshi expert on traditional boats, Amitav Sarkar, Patuakhali deputy commissioner, and local community leaders were present on the occasion.
Yves Marre, who first suggested the government take initiatives to preserve the boat, given its historical context, and put in on display in a museum, believes it can attract tourists’ attentions.
“The museum would significantly improve the beach’s tourism potential.
If built, it is going to attract a lot of tourists in Kuakata," said Marre, who had exhibited scores of self-made replicas of traditional Bangladeshi wooden boats in French and elsewhere in Europe.
The boat, made from Gorjon tree timber, is believed to have carried the first generation of Rakhine settlers – an ethnic minority displaced from Myanmar – more than 200 years ago.
It was discovered during a low tide on June 29, 2012 and is 72 feet long from one end to another, 22.5 feet wide and nearly 90 tonnes in weight, sources said.
On July 11, 2012, a three-member team of archaeologists from the Khulna office of DoA examined the boat and confirmed that it was used by the first Rakhine settlers fleeing their home state.
The DoA then forwarded a proposal to the government requesting to form a committee, provide funds for lifting the boat then partially buried beneath the sandy beach and make arrangements for its conservation.
Afroza Khan Mita, an assistant director for inscription and coin at the DoA, said a fund of Tk1.7m had been sanctioned for the recovery and restoration work on November 2012.
In addition, a piece of land previously owned by the Water Development Board, at the Kuakata Zero Point area, was selected as the site for its conservation.
However, during Cyclone Mahasen on May 15-16, the boat went under sand again making it difficult for rescuers to heave it up.
It was finally lifted and restored in its current state after a month-long rescue operation launched by the army in July.
Hasanul Huq Iqbal, a spokesman of the Kuakata Investors Forum, said the boat is an asset of the country and a part of its ethnic history. “By preserving it in a proper manner, we can boost the region’s tourism industry and attract a lot of local and foreign tourists here.”