PM opens country’s largest rehab scheme in Cox’s Bazar

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Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina today inaugurated the country’s largest rehabilitation project in Cox’s Bazar which will make new abode for 4,409 families of climate refugees.

The prime minister opened the landmark ‘Khurushkul Ashrayan Prokalpa’ in Khurushkul area on the outskirts of the southeastern beach town of Cox’s Bazar through a videoconference from her official Ganabhaban residence here this morning.

Chief of Army Staff General Aziz Ahmed spoke on the occasion, while Principal Staff Officer of the Armed Forces Division Lt Gen Md Mahfuzur Rahman and senior officials of the Prime Minister’s Office were present.

PM’s Principal Secretary Dr Ahmad Kaikaus moderated the function at Ganabhaban. A video documentary on the project was screened on the occasion.

Local parliament members, senior army officials including GOC of the area and officials of the administration and the project were present in Cox’s Bazar.

With today’s inauguration, 600 families would get their new shelter in 20 just-built special structures having 32 flats with all modern amenities, Ashrayan’s project director Md Mahbub Hossain told reporters in Cox’s Bazar on Wednesday.

He said each family will get a 456.07 square feet flat in exchange of only Taka 1001 while all the buildings were equipped with 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 Taka 1800.39 crore.

He said the Khurushkul Ashrayan 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 as the country’s largest rehabilitation project” since the Ashrayan Prokalpa 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 the homeless forcing them to take refuge in the airport area in Cox’s Bazar town where they virtually languished in crammed shanties in the subsequent decades.

Under PMO supervision, army’s the 10 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 newsmen, said before constructing the buildings, the ground was filled up with soil and made it 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 first such rehabilitation scheme for landless, homeless and destitute in 1972 as ordered by 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,” the 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 peoples miseries when a devastating cyclone again ravaged the coastlines in 1997,” Hossain said.

He said the cyclone hit the coastlines on May 19, 1997 while the premier visited the scene 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.