Residents of Monpura and Tajumuddin, two remote shoals on a Meghna River estuary, are dreading the return of pirates with the removal of a coast guard station and Coastal Crisis Management Centre (CCMC).
The measure leaves about 200 square kilometres of Bay of Bengal, a popular fishing area during the monsoon, vulnerable to pirates who abduct and kill fishermen for ransom.
There are about 10 shoals and eight mangrove forests around Hatia, Tajumuddin and Monpura upazilas. Exploiting their remoteness, pirates often loot, abduct and hold fishermen hostage in the adjacent forests.
However, with the coast guard station and the crisis management centre on Dhalchar, crime rates decreased significantly.
The coast guard station was established in 2013 to curb piracy and ensure safety for the fishermen and hundreds of shoal residents. The crisis centre was set up with support from the US government after former chairman of Monpura Upazila Parishad (UP) Kamal Uddin Chowdhury donated a piece of land to the Bangladesh Coast Guard.
The coast guard station was suddenly withdrawn from Dhalchar in January this year. The crisis centre was transferred to Ramnabad area of Kolapara upazila of Patuakhali.
This has enraged the shoal residents who have been staging demonstrations against the decision. Fishermen, farmers and general people feared that the area would again turn into a safe haven for pirates.
Char Dampayer, commonly known as Dhalchar, of Monpura upazila is home to some 3,000 people, most of whom rely on fishing and agriculture for their livelihood.
Belayet Hossain, 70, a resident said the shoal was a regular victim of piracy. “Some politically powerful people support these pirates. They not only loot our boats and equipment but also abduct us and demand ransom.”
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