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15 January, 2017 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 14 January, 2017 09:52:13 PM
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Army undertakes massive development scheme at Swarna Dweep

DEEPAK ACHARJEE
Army undertakes massive development scheme at Swarna Dweep

Situated at a height of 3 metres above the sea level, Swarna Dweep (Golden Island) is a 360-sq-km island in the Meghna estuary. Jahaijjarchor was renamed Swarna Dweep in 2013 and the government handed it over to the Bangladesh Army that year as a training ground, and also for its development for habitation and afforestation.

Over the last three years, Swarna Dweep has seen some dramatic progress in terms of infrastructure, with the construction of two cyclone centres and a container-based camp.
Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has expressed satisfaction over the planned use of the island.
She has announced plans to construct three more cyclone centres soon and reach all services to the islanders. She said the government had taken steps to produce several varieties of salinity-tolerant paddy and crops in addition to creating a coconut plantation and ‘keora’ garden to check erosion.
“The government has also taken the initiative to support the island people in dairy and poultry farming,” she said, adding that the Mujib Killa (Mujib Fort) was being built to give shelter to people and their livestock in the event of any natural disaster.
The PM recently inaugurated a multipurpose cyclone shelter and planted a coconut sapling. She also visited a dairy farm run by the army, and a coconut plantation.
 
Military initiative
The Bangladesh Army is directly working to develop Swarna Dweep (locally known as ‘Jahaijjarchor’), in the Noakhali district, as a training and exercise ground for the force. 
At the same time, it has taken up animal husbandry, pisciculture, and afforestation projects aimed at providing the local people a better life.
The island has a population of over 200 comprising entirely of farmers. They rear cattle, buffalos, and sheep, and raise coconut plantations with the help of the military.
As part of the Army’s afforestation programme, different species of fruit and forest trees have been planted here. At least 2,000 kg of keora (mangrove) seeds have been scattered over the island with the help of a helicopter. Besides, 15,980 coconut saplings, bought from Vietnam, have been planted. Catfish and vegetables are also being cultivated.
Of late, an experimental variety of rice is being cultivated on 10 acres of land. In future, ‘robi’ crops would be grown as well. The island also has 20 cattle farms run by 209 farmers under the Army’s management, producing mainly milk. A branch of the Army farm has already been set up on the island. The Army plans to increase milk production and introduce facilities for artificial insemination of cows in future. A small cheese factory is already at work. Fish farming has thrived on the island under Army management over the past two years, and large-scale expansion is on the anvil.
 
Development efforts
As the island is mainly being developed as a training and exercise ground for the Bangladesh Army, a container camp (accommodation project), known as sappers’ camp, has been built as the living quarters of the troops.
Two cyclone shelters—Moinamati Camp -1 and Sharnadeep camp—are already in place. They have been designed to provide shelter to the island population during inclement weather.
At both camps, water comes from deep tube wells and fresh water conserved in two ponds that have been dug. 
By now, the island also has a helipad. For treatment of the soldiers, a field hospital has been set up with MI room facilities. The local people, too, can get emergency medical services here.
The Bangladesh Army has built a trawler named ‘Swarnatori’ to link the island with the mainland. The army uses its landing craft tank (LCT) and landing craft utility (LCU) to carry its equipment like heavy guns and armoured personnel carrier (APC) when exercises are held.
With the help of the Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Corporation (BIWTC), the Army has constructed a light-weight jetty at Janaterghat, in Noakhali district, easing travel and movement of people and light equipment to the island. But no alternative jetty could be built because of river erosion at Swarna Dweep. A 10-km road is being built from Gurners Ghat to Moinamati Camp to make communications easier.
The Sixth Infantry Regiment under 101 Infantry Brigade of the 33 Infantry Division began activities on the island from April 10, 2010.
Combing operations on the island by the Army has yielded several pieces of arms and ammunition. A task force was formed under the 33 Artillery Brigade of the 33 Infantry Division for training, forestry, and animal husbandry on the island.
Senior military and civilian officials regularly visit island to oversee the ongoing projects.
 
Former pirates’ den 
Swarna Dweep is invariably struck by nor’easters and storms every April and May. The dry season lasts four months from December to March. Water flows in the island’s six canals only during the high tide.
Swarna Dweep rose in the Meghna estuary, close to the Bay of Bengal, in 1978, and lies in the Noakhali district. Initially, it was named ‘Island Ruhulamin’, but subsequently came to be known as Jahaijjar Island.
It lies about 4 km to the south of the Noakhali district mainland and "nearly 4.5 km west and about 13.5 km north-east of Hatiya. 
The entire island is made up of plain land but its soil, though alluvial, is not very fertile because of its salinity. A number of canals criss-cross the island. During much of the year, particularly the rainy season, Swarna Dweep remains under water, but rises from submergence and becomes dry during summer. 
The island was once a safe haven for pirates and robbers. But the island’s profile changed after Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina handed it to the Army on a long lease. 
In 2014, the Bangladesh Army conducted a large-scale troop exercise on the Island. There is a plan to set up a full-fledged exercise and training centre there.
The Army has already set up 25 of the 168 planned artificial villages, with each village having a tank firing position with support facilities for exercise. 
The island has significant biodiversity, with birds, snakes (some poisonous), and foxes.
The training support facilities being built is expected to raise the Army’s professional efficiency.
On January 7, the Army conducted its winter exercise on the island, attended by Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina as the chief guest. She said she had found the event, held by the 11 Infantry Division under the supervision of the 33 Infantry Division of Bangladesh Army, impressive. Brig. Gen. Sharif Ahsan had led the manoeuvres.
She said the Bangladesh Army was more prepared than ever before to foil misadventure by any quarters.
During her visit to the dairy farm and a coconut plantation on the Island, the PM advised the chief of army staff, General Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq, to set up the necessary processing plants to produce coconut-based and dairy products.
Sheikh Hasina inaugurated a multipurpose cyclone shelter centre and planted a sapling of a coconut tree.
The Army chief, Gen. Abu Belal Muhammad Shafiul Huq, urged the people to support the Army training centre.
There are over 100 islands, including Swarna Dweep, under Noakhali district.

 

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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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