Lifestyle of some 200,000 people of Kutubdia island, with an area of 215.80 square kilometre consisting of six unions, has changed a lot since April.
Kutubdia is an upazila under Cox's Bazar district surrounded by the Bay of Bengal.
The island, which would plunge into darkness at dusk, now has electricity. It has been connected to the national grid since April through submarine cable. The 33 KV line has been constructed from Matarbari in Moheshkhali of Cox's Bazar to Mognama Ghat.
From there, electricity is supplied to Kutubdia by constructing a 5 km double-circuit submarine line with fibre optic under the sea. Some 2 km distribution line has been constructed in Kutubdia to provide electricity at the consumer level.
While visiting the island recently, houses in Kutubdia were seen illuminated. Because of electricity, extensive socio-economic development is underway.
Local teenagers Rafiq, Salim and Azizul never had ice-cream before. Farmer Manzoor Alam got a mobile phone earlier, but because there was no electricity, charging it was an ordeal.
Their lives have changed at "lightning speed."
Even a few months ago, pregnant women would be taken to Chakaria or Cox's Bazar, risking the rough waves of the sea. But now, there is no need to cross the sea anymore. An operation theatre has been opened at the 50-bed government hospital after the island got electricity connection.
Salt farming is common in Kutubdia upazila. There is a lighthouse, the beach, and the shrine of Qutub Auliya. The beach, where one can witness incredible sunset views, is about 16 km long. Another attraction are the seagulls.
Residents of Kutubdia said that the island used to lag far behind in terms of socio-economic status. There was no access to modern agriculture, education, or medical care. Now, the government has arranged all facilities on the island. Kutubdia residents now understand how important electricity is.
Now various government and private development activities including industries, cold storage, businesses are progressing rapidly. Street lights are making commute after dark easier. Electricity connection has ensured security and enabled economic activity after sunset.
Fair price for various agricultural products including fish, dried fruits, salt, watermelon, betel nut produced in the island is being ensured. Islanders hope there will be a rapid expansion in tourism.
A "100 Percent Reliable and Sustainable Electrification" project for Hatia, Nijhum Dwip and Kutubdia islands was undertaken in 2020 at a cost of around Tk 400 crore.
The project wrapped up in June this year. But before scheduled time, electricity has reached Kutubdia island.
Famer Manzoor Alam of Manoarkhali village said, "Earlier, I used to run the generator with oil and charge my mobile phone. If there was no oil, I had to go to someone else's house and charge it with solar electricity. Now I have electricity in my house."
It has been a month since electricity came to the house of 64-year-old Bajal Karim of Ars Sikdarpara. "I can now use a rice cooker in my house. I bought a fridge too. I can keep the fish in it," he said.
Upazila Nirbahi Officer Dipankar Tanchangya said that after the electricity connection last April, there is excitement among the people in the area. People's interest in small scale businesses has increased as well.
Karim Uddin, a businessman at Baraghop market in Kutubdia Upazila Sadar, said the government under the leadership of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has fulfilled the dreams of the people of Kutubdia.
"I never thought that electricity would come to Kutubdia. We got electricity from April 12 night. Our lives have changed right away," he said.
At the house of Rafiqul Alam, a resident of Lemshikhali village in Kutubdia upazila, electric light is on. People in the house are watching the news on a color television. He said that children could not study at home for long after dark due to lack of electricity. "Now, they can use computers too."
Fisherman Jalal Ahmad said that at least 34,000 fishermen will be benefited. Some people including him are preparing to build a cold storage for fish conservation.
Elders of Kutubdia said that during the Covid-19 pandemic, students all over the country could participate in online classes, but students in Kutubdia were deprived of that opportunity.
At the island's 50-bed government hospital, medical services were run by generators for several hours at night. If the generator was out of order, various treatments were carried out in candlelight.
That is not the case now. Residents of the island commented that getting electricity was a milestone in the fulfilment of their dreams.
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