Is­land hope for Ro­hingya

The Times (South Africa) - - World -

● Dozens of new is­lands have emerged from the waters around Bangladesh over the last decade, pro­vid­ing a pos­si­ble so­lu­tion to the threat that ris­ing sea lev­els pose to the low-ly­ing coastal na­tion.

The gov­ern­ment said on Mon­day that

29 is­lands with a com­bined area of

507km² had emerged from the Bay of Ben­gal since 2007.

Ev­ery year Hi­malayan rivers de­posit an es­ti­mated 1 bil­lion tons of silt in the Bay of Ben­gal off the coast of Bangladesh, form­ing is­lands in the shal­low waters.

Many of these is­lands, known as chars, could mit­i­gate the threat of global warm­ing.

“Ev­ery year Bangladesh has new land emerg­ing,” said Maminul Haque Sarker, head of the Cen­tre for En­vi­ron­ment and Ge­o­graphic In­for­ma­tion Ser­vices.

One of the is­lands has been con­tro­ver­sially ear­marked as a pos­si­ble tem­po­rary base for the hun­dreds of thou­sands of Ro­hingya refugees from Myan­mar cur­rently liv­ing in squalid — mostly makeshift — camps in south­ern Bangladesh.

The in­flux has over­whelmed fa­cil­i­ties in the densely pop­u­lated coun­try, and au­thor­i­ties have strug­gled to find al­ter­na­tive land to house them.

Wa­ter ex­pert Zahirul Haque Khan said dams could be set up to trap the vast amounts of sed­i­ment. “Bangladesh can gain hun­dreds of square kilo­me­tres of new land by trap­ping silt through cross dams and en­gi­neer­ing in­ter­ven­tions,” said Khan, the di­rec­tor of In­sti­tute of Wa­ter Mod­el­ling in Dhaka.

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