Sunday, July 5, 2009

Nijhum Dip

Nijhum Dip (Char Osman) a cluster of islands (mainly, Ballar Char, Kamlar char, Char Osman and Char Muri, with a total landmass of about 14050 acres) emerged in the early 1950s as an alluvium in the shallow estuary of the Bay of Bengal on the south of Noakhali. These new sandbanks first drew the notice of a group of fishermen, who named it Baular Char (literally, the alluvium of sand) later transformed into Ballar Char. During the winter, thousands of migratory birds flocked to it. The fishermen used the airy and sunny land as an ideal place for drying their catches from the sea. Sometimes many also constructed straw huts on the islands as seasonal residence.
As usual, the islands got covered with various aquatic rank grasses and became a rich grazing field. Later, the chars were surveyed professionally and were given the name Char Osman after the name of a pioneer settler Osman, the owner of a large cattle herd who used the islands as the grazing ground.
Migrating people did not come here for settlement until 1970. Many lived there on purely seasonal basis and the territory, popularly called Nijhum Dwip (the quiet island) was included in the Hatiya constituency in early 1970s. At about the same time, a large number of people losing their lands and homes because of riverbank erosion in nearby areas, especially Hatiya, Shahbajpur and Ramgati migrated to the island as new settlers.
Nijhum Dwip has six big bazaars with mainly the grocery shops, small restaurants and drug stores. These bazaars are the only places in the islands to have electricity from generators.
The forest department of the government of Bangladesh created mangrove forests in Nijhum Dwip and the main attraction in these forests is the herd of about 5000 spotted dear. The most important type of tree planted in the island is Keora, also known as Kerfa, which has fast growing roots holding the sandy land. The plant also supplies pillars for houses, materials for making boats and agricultural implements, and fuel for domestic use. In 2001, the government of Bangladesh declared Nijhum Dwip forests as National Park.
The population in Nijhum Dwip in 2001 was 10,670. Their main occupations are cultivation, fishing and livestock farming. The island produces vegetables in large quantities. Life in the island is hard and risky. People live here together amidst natural calamities. Notwithstanding, more and more people are migrating to the island in search of new land for homestead and cultivation.

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