The government earns Tk50 lakhs revenue per year but not expanding the jetty
The people of Moheskhali continue to suffer because the island does not have a modern transportation system to reach the mainland. There is a river route that connects the island to Cox's Bazar on the mainland, but the jetty on the island is 31 years old.
Moreover, as the Bakkhali river is gradually losing navigability, boats only carry people during high tide. Local people have to wade knee-deep in mud to reach the boats because the jetty ends long before the waterline.
Though the local municipality earns nearly Tk50 lakh annually, they rarely give a thought to the everyday woes of commuters, said working people and students who have to go to Cox's Bazar regularly.
The people of the island suffer immensely because they have to carry elderly people or pregnant women to the boats during low tide. They want an extension of the Moheshkhali jetty and immediate dredging of the river to ease transportation.
Sources at Moheshkhali municipality said a 500-metre long and 3.3-metre wide jetty was built at a cost of around Tk1.20 crores in 1988 on the east side of the island. The length of the dock was increased by 100 meters in 2000. However, the expansion did not ease the woes of people as silt filled up the shoreline quite quickly.
Thousands of people visit the island daily as this tourist hotspot was announced as the first digital island in 2017.
It has tourist attractions such as the Adinath Temple, the Rakhaine Old Temple and betel leaf farms. Besides, the island is gaining importance because the Matarbari Coal Power Plant, the deep sea port, an LNG terminal and the Sonadia Exclusive Tourist Zone which have been set up on the island.
Senior government and non-government officials come to the island quite frequently, said local people.
"The municipality gets around Tk50 lakh per year as revenue from the jetty. It can expand the jetty with that money," said Advocate Noman Sharif, a resident of the island.
The boats get few passengers during low tide.
"We have informed the local administration and municipality several times, but the issue is yet to be addressed," said Md Hamid, leader of the local speedboat owners' association.
Abul Kalam, who is in-charge of the jetty, said most water vessels get trapped in the mud long before they reach the jetty.
Moheshkhali Municipality Mayor Moksud Mia said they dredged the channel leading to the jetty last year. However, it has filled up with silt again.
"An application for expanding the jetty and fresh dredging has been sent to the concerned department," he added.
Kamal Hossain, deputy commissioner of Cox's Bazar, said, "Neither expanding the jetty nor dredging will mitigate the problem. The government is thinking of introducing a ferry service on the route."