There is an island in Bangladesh with 2,400 inhabitants, but without any vehicles, roads, markets or even a pharmacy. Residents of this island of Sonadiaare deprived of all kinds of modern amenities.
In 2015, Bangladesh embarked on a journey to adoptthe "2030 Agenda" towards achieving Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs), with the commitment to leave no one behind, prioritise the "furthest behind first," eradicate poverty, reduce inequalities and ensure equal opportunities and dignity for all.
But Sonadia of Moheshkhali upazila in Cox's Bazar district is clearly far from achieving these agenda items and commitments.
The island, with an area of 9 square kilometers, is connected with Moheshkhali via a bridge at Ghativanga point in Kutubjom union. However, there are no roads on either end of the bridge, which wasbuilt around a decade ago.
To reach the bridge, Sonadia residentshave to wade through waist-high water during high tide, or through a muddy aisle with hundreds of potholes during low tide. But they never wade through water or mud unless absolutely necessary.
The island is around four kilometers away from Ghativanga. The muddy aisle from the bridge to the island goes through a coastal forest.
The islanders usually wait for a boat, which is also contingent on tide. There is only one daily boat between Ghativanga and the island. Anyone missing the boathas to wait till the next day for the next boat.
While visiting the island, our correspondent saw no paved or unpaved roads. There are no vehicles or evenrickshaws inthe island, with walking being the only way of getting around the sandy island.
The island also does not have a single medical facility, neither does it have a pharmacy that stocks common and emergency medication.
Aside from five tea stalls, Sonadia also does not have any kitchen markets or grocery stores.
Moreover, the island only has a primaryschool, and not a single secondary school. Due to a lack of education, girls on the island end up in early marriages.
Badiul Alam, 75, a resident of the island, said "We are isolated from everything and deprived of basic amenities. Our lives move with the tide."
"Women living on the island suffer the most. When they experience labour pains, we cannot take them to a hospital due to the lack of a communication system," said Kajal Akter, union Parishad Member (Sonadia) of Kutubjom Union Parishad.
"There is a primary school with around 200 students. But after the children complete primary education, they have no option to attend a secondary school here," said Kajal.
When contacted, Md Mahfuzur Rahman, Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Moheshkhali, told The Business Standard, "Sonadia island has been acquired by the Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority (BEZA). So, we are not focusing on its development."
The BEZA will develop this zone as an environmentally friendly Eco-Tourism Park, where a maximum of 30% of the land on the island could be used as a tourist attraction.
BEZA Executive Chairman Paban Chowhury told The Business Standard, "There is nothing now. It is an area without any facilities. We are working to make planned housing with all facilities, including mosques and schools for locals."