Bhasan Char Island is located in Hatiya Upazila in the Bay of Bengal, Bangladesh. It is also known as Char Piya, and until 2019 it was known as Thengar Char is located about 6 kilometers from Sandwip island and 60 kilometers from the mainland, close to the coast.
Bhashan Char island spans 40 square kilometers, and it was formed by Himalayan silt as recently as 2006. The only mode of commute for residents of Bhashan Char will be vessels that take three to three-and-a-half hours to travel from Hatiya. The island is in the news because Rohingya refugees, an ethnic group from neighbouring Myanmar, are being relocated by the Bangladesh government into this island.
The Bhashan Char Island has been in news recently for Rohingya refugees moving to the island in the Bay of Bengal from Bangladesh refugee camps. For more details about the Places in News for UPSC Prelims, candidates can visit the linked article.
In this article, we shall discuss at length the background and aspects of the Bhashan Char Island, important from the IAS Exam perspective.
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Why is Bhashan Char Island in News?
The first two groups totalling around 4,000 Rohingya, had been sent to the island between December 2020 and January 2021. On 29th January, the third batch of 17768 Rohingya refugees was moved to Bhashan Char Island. A fourth group was moved the following day. Until the count of refugees on the island reaches 100,000, the process of moving them will continue, according to authorities. They have been given accommodation in terms of housing and food, and other facilities. The island was built at the cost of more than $112 million by the Bangladesh navy.
A major concern raised by Rohingyas against Bhasan Char Island is that they fear tides can wash away the island. Although the Bhashan Char falls in an ecologically fragile zone prone to floods, erosion, and cyclones, the Bangladesh government has built a three-meter high embankment to keep out the tide during cyclones. The houses are built four feet above the ground to protect from tidal waves. The island has not been inhabited before. The land was mostly used for cattle grazing until the construction of shelters for the Rohingyas began.
Of its one million refugees, Bangladesh wants to rehabilitate 100,000 of them. The international community and the refugees have expressed concern about the rehabilitation project. However, the government is still hopeful that the plan will help manage the massive refugee population in a disciplined manner. There is a jetty, a dam, a fire service unit, and a meteorological office on the island. Solar power systems have been installed to ensure 24-hour electricity for residents.
There will be fencing around the area’s perimeter, and watchtowers will also be built to ensure security for the project.
Given below are a few related links for the UPSC CSE perspective:
A brief history of the Rohingyas
The Rohingyas are a stateless Indo-Aryan ethnic group that majorly follow Islam and resided in Rakhine State, Myanmar (previously known as Burma) for centuries. Before the genocide of the Rohingyas in 2017, an estimated 1.4 million Rohingya lived in Myanmar, and over 740,000 fled to Bangladesh. The remaining Rohingyas in Myanmar are subject to government persecution and violence and have been cut off from basic amenities like food, healthcare, education, and shelter.
Also, read Is India a Signatory of the UN Refugee Convention?
About Bhashan Char Island
The Bhashan Char is more of a mudflat and less of an island and is very vulnerable to going underwater from tides and flooding. Much of the land is submerged during the rains. It is located near the mouth of the river Meghna, which flows into the Bay of Bengal.
Bhashan Char surfaced only in 2006 from the sediment deposited by the river. Char in Bengali means sediment. Nearly 8 lakh Rohingya refugees have escaped Myanmar’s Rakhine province since 2016, as they have been denied citizenship in the Buddhist majority Myanmar. They fled the army crackdown in what is understood to be ethnic cleansing by the government.
According to the United Nations, this ethnic minority is the most persecuted globally. The Bangladesh government has built hospitals, shelters, schools, and masjids on this isolated piece of land. Many Rohingyas were living in Bangladesh’s Cox’s Bazar, where there were living in squalid and unhygienic overcrowded camps. The Bangladesh government planned to construct a total of 1,440 buildings and 120 cyclone shelters to relocate 100,000 Rohingya refugees.
Also, refer to the following links based on UPSC syllabus for exam preparation:
Questions on Bhashan Char Island and its location may come in the prelims of UPSC exam. The Rohingya Crisis is one of the main topics of the Mains Level in IAS exam. Overall, Bhashan Char Island UPSC is an important topic the students need to study when attempting a UPSC exam.
Furthermore, for the latest exam updates, study material and preparation tips, candidates can visit BYJU’S.
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