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Bangladesh-Maldives sand deal shelved

Shine Jacob  |  Kolkata 

A plan that hailed as the “Good Samaritan” of Asia, rescuing more than 328,000 from being climate refugees seems to be shelved by both the countries now.

Both and the Maldives were planning to strike a deal last year, to ship sand to the island nation, which is facing a threat of being inundated if the sea level rises by even one metre.

“I don’t think the plan is still there. They wanted to export sand to up the land level in defence against rising see level. We had asked them to dredge and take the sand from our rivers, but they never came back with a complete proposal. I do not think that Maldives has such technical expertise,” said Ghulam Muhammed Quader, commerce minister. The plan was conceptualised during a meeting with the former president of Maldives and Bangladesh Prime Minister in 2010. In December 2010, Business Standard had reported that a joint committee of both countries is looking into the proposal and the deal may be sealed soon, quoting the then Bangladesh commerce minister.

Bangladesh was keen on the project, as it was kicking off a more than Rs 630 crore project to dredge all the major rivers in that country, starting from Mongla port on the Posur river.

“Even if, Maldives was willing, there were some pros and cons for the project as it involved environmental issues too,” Quader added. The archipelago, which consists of more than 1,100 islands, is one of the lowest countries on the planet, with an average land level of 1.5 metres above sea level.

In 2008, Maldives had announced that it will create a sovereign wealth fund with tourism revenue to relocate people if sea level rises.

The island nation even had plans to buy land in India, Australia and Sri Lanka based on this.

First Published: Fri, October 26 2012. 00:10 IST