Zaber Mia and his wife Jusna Begum lost their home in Cox’s Bazar to a cyclone nearly 10 years ago, and they had been living miserable lives ever since.
“As a boatman, I used to go out to sea with fishermen to catch fish. One day, I became stuck at sea when a cyclone started. I managed to return alive through the rescue team, but the boat could not be saved,” Zaber Mia told Dhaka Tribune recently.
The couple stayed at the homes of their relatives for a few days, and then had to start living under the open sky on footpaths in Khurushkul union under Cox’s Bazar district.
“The cyclone took everything from me. Without my boat, my income was not enough for maintaining all expenses, including house rent,”he said.
Now the Khurushkul Special Ashrayan Project, a part of Ashrayan Project-2, has provided some relief to Zaber and Jusna after their years of suffering. The couple, like thousands of other homeless people, have received an apartment with a living room, drawing room, kitchen and washrooms.
Monir Hossain, another recipient, used to live by the sea in a wooden hut with his five family members. Every year, natural calamities would destroy their means of living and damage their home.
“Every year I had to go into debt to repair the house, but the days have started to change. I was able to send three boys and girls to a project-based school. I have been able to pay off loans and start a small business,” he said.
“All this has become possible as a result of getting permanent shelter provided by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s shelter scheme,” Monir added.
According to the Prime Minister’s Office, 4,409 homeless and climate hit families were identified during work on the Cox’s Bazar Airport runway extension project with a view to relocating them to housing under the Khurushkul Special Ashrayan Project. The housing is located at Khurushkul Mouza, near Bakkhali river of Cox’s Bazar Sadar upazila.
What facilities are under the project?
According to the project profile, the government provided 253.35 acres of land and decided to construct 139 five-storey buildings with modern facilities for climate refugees.
Under the project, drinking water, sewage lines, solar panels, guest houses, and all civic amenities have been installed or constructed.
Each building has 32 flats, and each flat will house one family. The size of each flat is 406. 7 sqft, and each floor has common service facilities.
The project area has two access roads, 20km of internal paved roads, a primary and secondary school for education, 14 playgrounds, three ponds, a mosque and a temple.
Each building has facilities for opening grocery shops, tea stalls, jewelers shops, salons, pharmacies, and electronics shops.
The school has been built under the initiative of the Swiss Government Excellence Scholarships (ESKAS) project on the ground floor of 10 buildings.
Sharmin Akter Sumi, a school teacher in Jhinuk Bhaban, told Dhaka Tribune that around 30 students are enrolled in each of the school buildings currently. The students are also given an incentive of Tk120 per month and educational materials from the project.
The teacher said: “Guardians have become interested in sending their children to these schools and the result is that child labor is decreasing day by day in this area.”
The Bangladesh Army took over the responsibility to implement the project in May 2017. A total of four zones of this project will be completed by December, according to the project director, Colonel Afzal Hossain.
As many as 20 out of 139 buildings have already been completed. A total of 600 families have been living in 19 buildings for about three years.
The rest of the buildings are almost at the final stage of completion.
Project officials said beneficiaries will be able to move into more buildings in September or October.
On July 23, 2020, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina inaugurated the 19 completed buildings of the project and provided flats to 600 families.