Devastated St. Martin’s: The Island should be brought back to life

Although Bangladesh managed to avert the blow of very severe cyclone Mocha, the storm wreaked havoc in the Saint Martin’s Island. Country’s one of the most visited tourist spots Saint Martin’s has a population of around 11,000. More than 2,000 houses and shops have been damaged due to the cyclone in this eight square kilometre island. More than 1200 were completely destroyed. Most of the mud houses in Majherpara, Konarpara, Galachipa, Dakshinpara, Paschimpara, Uttarpara of the island were razed to the ground. Thousands of people have to live in the open.

Some residents of St. Martin’s took cover in cyclone shelters in Teknaf after the forecast of the storm came. Remaining others was sent to shelters in St. Martin's at the initiative of the local administration. Because of this, no one was injured though the cyclone unleashed havoc on the island. The residents, after the storm had passed, returned their homes only to find some houses were completely damaged while some were partially damaged. They were left with nothing - no food, no supports.

In this situation, the government should provide food, drinking water and other relief assistance to the affected people first. Those people cannot live in the open for long. There is fear of nor’wester as well. Necessary financial assistance should also be provided so that these people can build and repair their houses.

St. Martin's UP chairman Mujibur Rahman told Prothom Alo that the remnants of uprooted trees are being removed and the roads are being made suitable for traffic. Members of each ward have been vested with the responsibility to prepare the list of homeless families. About 1500 families have been listed till 11:30 Monday. About 500 coconut trees were snapped on the island due to the cyclone. There were about 5,700 coconut trees on the island.

Notably, the coconut trees and corals are the main attractions of this island. The island is also known as 'Narikel Jinjira'. Therefore, new trees should be planted immediately. Damaged roads should also be repaired. Concerned authorities must remain alert to ensure that the relief and rehabilitation work is not delayed.

Saint Martin’s Island cannot be weighed by its population only. It is also one of the main tourist points of Bangladesh. All establishments including houses and restaurants here should be built in a planned and environment friendly manner. Many structures have been built arbitrarily before. We would like to draw attention of the concerned authorities to this issue so that this does not repeat especially after the cyclone.

Environment activists have been extending their objections about the construction of buildings arbitrarily in St. Martin’s for a long time. This is the time to ensure that no illegal structures can be built again after the cyclone. Concerned authorities should also be alert so that no one can build any structures (houses, restaurants, resorts) that damage the environment of the island in the future.

The faster the authorities will provide relief and rehabilitation, the faster the lives of the residents of the island will return to normal. We hope St. Martin’s Island will come around and get back to life soon.