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SWARNO DWEEP – A TREASURE ISLAND FOR BANGLADESH ARMY

The Ronin

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Introduction

Swarno Dweep (SRD) is an island which is located towards the South of Subarno Char, Noakhali, in the estuary of Meghna river. It is towards 03 kilometers (km) South West of URIR Char, 4.5 km North West of Sandhip and 13.5 km North East of Hatiya island. It is an island which dominates the Hatiya – Sandhip channel and Caring Khal channel. In 1990’s and 2000’s, the island was used by pirates for various anti-social, smuggling, dacoity, kidnapping and collecting ransom etc.

As a result, in early 2013, Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina entrusted the responsibility to Bangladesh Army for the socio-economic development of the island for the use of surrounding people restoring the law & order situation vis-a-vis fulfilling the training needs of the Army. On 14 November 2013, formal government order (1) was published by the Ministry of Land. In a bird’s eye view, half of the island is open & flat and the rest of the land is thickly vegetated, the soil of the area is salty but fertile.

Due to openness, the island offers huge opportunity for conducting almost all types of training for Brigade size force. It is easily possible to deploy a Brigade size force (with all its affiliated elements as per doctrinal layout and conduct maneuver without any hindrance. There is no other big area which offers similar facilities for conducting the training in Bangladesh. It allows driving of tanks for 18 kms (at a stretch) area at a speed of 30-35 kmh, which is impossible in other parts of the country. It allows conduct of all types of firing but at this moment it is not allowed due to the absence of master plan and many other factors.

In addition to the training facilities, it offers cultivation of paddy, production of coconut, afforestation projects, fisheries project, development of farms (cow and buffalo fattening, milk extraction, cheese production, goose production etc) etc. The island has enormous potentials both for conducting training and socio-economic development projects for the area. In addition, the island opens doors for many research and development projects like solar power plant, bio-gas projects, wind mills etc.

SRD is a virgin island with hardly any habitations and few bathans (2) which can be used for any purpose (be it training, socio-economic development projects, afforestation, research & development projects etc). In the scope of conducting training, island can be converted for multipurpose training like FIBUA, counter terrorism, Riverine Operations, Special Forces Training, airborne operations, assault river crossings, bridgehead operations etc.

In addition to the use of the island for training purpose, the presence of Army and implementation of socio-economic development projects is enhancing the overall development of the island and surrounding areas for future inhabitants. The festivity of the island also allows implementation of projects for island protection and environmental friendly projects which will add value to the economy of the country.

The island can also be used for research and development of many new projects like solar power plants, wind mills, bio-gas projects etc. As such, the existing potentiality and future use of the island will make it a treasure island for Bangladesh Army. In this paper an attempt has been made to familiarize SRD to the readers, and forecast the opportunities available for Bangladesh Army. It shall also include the wish list for conducting training, socio-economic development projects and concept of constructions in the island.

Location of Island

SRD is located at 22257.10˝ to 223722.90˝ latitude and 911157.10˝ to 912213.40˝ longitude. It is situated 3 km away from the south west of URIR CHAR, 4.5km North West of SWANDIP and 13.5 km North East of HATIYA.

Terrain Analysis of SRD

SRD is an island which is located in the estuary of Meghna River in the Bay of Bengal. It is separated from mainland by a khal named Caring khal (Meghna Channel). The area is generally flat and open, and it is 28 km from North East to South West and 14 km from North to South. The area is distinctly divided into two halves; one half is thickly vegetated by Keora plantation of 5-8 height which was planted by World Bank and the rest of the place is absolutely open and flat which can be compared to the surface of hockey fields.

The island has distinctly three parts, northern tip which is north of Lamia’s Khal is low lying and generally remains water logged due to tide water. It is soft and movement of foot & vehicle is difficult during rainy season. However, during dry season (November to mid-April), it remains little dry, yet movement of vehicle is completely restricted, but foot infantry movement is possible with caution.

The southern most part, which is at the south of Baro Awolia Khal is divided into two types of lands. The southern tip is similar to the northern tip of the island but the area, close to Baro Awolia Khal, is absolutely like hockey field and during dry season movement of foot infantry and soft skinned light vehicle is possible. But during monsoon only foot infantry can move in that area.

The area is criss-crossed with numerous canals originated from the Bay of Bengal. During high tide in monsoon, the island goes under water by almost 1-2 feet making all types of movement difficult. The island is usable for conducting maneuver training from mid-november to midmarch.

Opportunities for Training in SRD

General Description:- In general, SRD offers opportunity for conducting all types of maneuvers for both foot and mechanized elements including supporting and services elements. Due to terrain and weather condition, SRD is now being utilized only for 3-4 months (dry season); but it can be utilized for the whole year. It should be used by all the elements of Army (including riverine assets, commandoes, and Special Forces etc.) throughout the year. Arms and Service commando cadres can organize exercises in this island throughout the year.

However, SRD uniquely offers the opportunity for conducting exercises to the formations; those are otherwise not possible to conduct in the formation training area(s) or area of responsibility. A stereo type defense or attack is not in focus, rather those practices which cannot be imparted to under commands like showing of whole battalion counter penetration position, passage of line of Brigade Reserve once launched, section clearing drill, staging forward of Brigade reserve, covering troops battle, layout of delay lines etc. should in focus.

Types of Training Can Be Conducted.

SRD offers an area to employ a Brigade size force with all its supporting and service support elements as contemplated in Doctrinal Template. It is true for all types of operations including bridgehead operations. SRD can also be utilized for training throughout the year. Following table shows the season and types of exercises to be conducted in SRD:

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Facilities for Training in SRD.

a. Headquarters, Army Training and Doctrine Command (HQ ARTDOC) in coordination with Army Headquarters, General Staff Branch, Military Training Directorate (AHQ, GS Br, MT Dte) has already prepared a comprehensive plan for making a maneuver area comprised of 164 cluster villages. The plan is in the implementation process and 35 cluster villages have already been prepared. The phase one of the project is supposed to be completed in 2018.

b. A Fighting in the Built-Up Area (FIBUA) village complex is also planned to be constructed in SRD. This will allow practicing all variants of FIBUA (like firing in various types of targets, actions with various battle field sounds, various enemy situations, various types of buildings (shops, huts, mosques, strong points, markets, open squares etc). In addition to FIBUA, it will also facilitate conducting training on Counter Terrorism.

c. Field Firing of Various Weapons. The scope of conducting all types of firing in SRD is very evident. Firing can vary from sub-caliber to small arms to heavy weapon firing. In all possibility, sub-caliber firing can be conducted in any part of the SRD, especially in the south-western part of the island.

Although, the scope and necessity do not suggest conducting of isolated small arms firing but it may be conducted in the form of jungle lane shooting or reflex action shooting (as part of overall exercise plan).

However, there are scopes and areas available for heavy weapon firing including artillery firing but the ground is not suitable to sustain the impact of heavy weapon firing. Due to the soil condition, heavy weapon firing, demolition and artillery firing may not be conducted in SRD now. However, live mine laying and training is possible and may be conducted in SRD.

d. Special Training Areas. The thickly vegetated area in SRD can be utilized for the training of Special Forces like commandoes. They can conduct exercises like tracking, fire and move, survival training etc. Arms and Services Commando cadres can also conduct their exercises in this area.

e. Wish List to Conduct the Training in SRD. In addition to the maneuver ground, field firing facilities, FIBUA complex, special training areas etc., there are other wish list to conduct the training in SRD. The probable wish lists area is as follows:

(1) Drop zone for Special Forces and Para-units.

(2) Riverine engineers training area.

(3) Engineers training area including live mine training.

(4) Two/Three jetty (Two in SRD and another in Chairman Ghat).

(5) Cyclone shelters as accommodation.

(6) A landing strip.

(7) Adequate watercraft for the crossing of maneuver troops and troops stationed in the island.

(8) Helipad capability of night landing (one in each camp).

(9) Small arms firing range/reflex action shooting complex.

(10) Air defense firing range.

(11) Live firing area for infantry and artillery.

(12) Area Pillar.

(13) Main artery road.

(14) Crossing point (bridge/culvert).

(15) Training Store.

The wish list to conduct the training is attached as Annex C.

A Central Organization for SRD.

a. Presently AHQ, GS Br, MT Dte and Quarter Master General’s (QMG’s) Branch, Movement & Quartering Directorate (M&Q Dte) looks after the SRD through Area Headquarters (HQ), Comilla & Task Force HQ Comilla C/O: 33 Artillery Brigade.

There are multifarious tasks including operations, training, construction, maintenance, movement & quartering etc. to conduct the training, ensure the maintenance of island & prepare SRD for future requirement.

b. In order to mitigate all the above actions, often all directorates, Task Force HQ and other stakeholders need to sit for coordination, yet there remain grey areas. On the other hand, maneuver brigades conduct exercise in SRD, also need to carry out a lot of coordination, as such, there is a vacuum & it becomes difficult for AHQ, GS Br, MT Dte to coordinate all aspects.

Besides, over the years, the conduct of exercises has become monotonous. As such, if a central organization would have been present, the one ended contact & coordination could be enough for all (be it exercise planning, reconnaissance, coordination, future planning, implementation of all projects, etc). The group may be named as SRD Combined Planning Group (SRD CPG). As such, there is a requirement of a central organization, which may have following responsibilities:

(1) Coordinate and conduct of exercises with maneuver Brigade Commander/ group.

(2) Coordinate and assist maneuver Brigade Commander/group in planning and conducting of exercise in SRD.

(3) Train and provide enemy for conducting the exercise.

(4) Evaluate the exercise on behalf or in conjunction of HQ ARTDOC.

(5) Coordinate with Area HQ Comilla, all committees related to SRD and concerned directorates of AHQ.

(6) Oversee implementation of maneuver ground, FIBUA village and all other training facilities.

(7) Coordinate move of troops to and from SRD.

(8) Coordinate logistic support of the maneuver troops and troops stationed for maintenance of SRD.

(9) Suggest modification/improvement of maneuver area in SRD, and any other tasks given by Army HQ etc.

(10). The proposed organogram of SRD CPG may be as follows:

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Location and Command & Control of SRD CPG.

SRD CPG will be stationed in Comilla cantonment. The details of command and control and relationship with the various stake holders are attached as Annex A.

Modus Operandi.

The modus operandi for the SRD CPG will be as follows:

a. General. SRD CPG will coordinate and assist in planning of exercise by the maneuver Brigade Commander. In this regard, SRD CPG will initially brief the maneuver commander and his staffs (including control and umpire organizations) in its HQ. They shall also discuss the draft plan to conduct exercise. Thereafter, maneuver Brigade commander will visit SRD and carry out detailed reconnaissance. On completion of reconnaissance, the maneuver group again shall fall back to SRD CPG, discuss and modify the exercise plan and finally on return to the respective HQ, brings out exercise paper at least 15 days prior to the commencement of the exercise.

b. Time Plan for Planning the Exercise. In general, a 2 months’ forward planning is a requirement to conduct an exercise of a Brigade group in SRD. It shall be a continuous process for SRD CPG for all the Brigade groups conducting exercise in SRD. A model of forward planning for a maneuver Brigade group is attached as Annex B (note that the commencement date for the exercise is taken as 01 December).

c. Leaders Training. Maneuver Brigade Commander is to come and meet SRD CPG and discuss the requirement of Army and Formations at least 90-120 (minimum 60) days prior to the commencement of the exercise. Maneuver Brigade Commander should be accompanied by his all commanding officers, officer commanding, control and umpire organizations representatives, etc. On return from SRD CPG, these echelons will train it’s under command and prepare for the exercise in SRD.

d. Maneuver Brigade Group.

(1) They will be responsible for preparing final exercise paper and circulate to all concerned by D-15.

(2) They will be also responsible for exercise planning, coordination for movement and execution of exercise.

e. Enemy. Enemy will be controlled by SRD CPG.

Enemy will be provided by the formations not attending the exercise at that point of time. The strength, training and coordination, in accordance with the exercise, will be done by SRD CPG.

f. Control of Exercise.

Exercise will be controlled either by Enemy Commander or by a group of officers from player formation, under the supervision of SRD CPG. However, a tentative organization is appended below:

(1) Chief Control - 1 x Colonel
(2) Enemy Control - 1 x Lieutenant Colonel/1 x Major
(3) Logistics Control - 1 x Major
(4) 1 x Member from SRD CPG.

g. After Action Review (AAR).

AAR will be done in two phases, first: by the ground commander in site, second: by the Maneuver group commander along with the presence of SRD CPG centrally. In all cases, MT Dte and HQ ARTDOC representatives may also form part of the team to evaluate the exercises.

h. Additional Responsibility of SRD CPG.

(1) To oversee implementation of maneuver area in SRD as per approved plan.

(2) Coordinate with Area HQ Comilla, all committees related to SRD and concerned directorates of AHQ.

(3) Assist and suggest improvement/modification of maneuver plan.

(4) Suggest DOs and Don’ts for exercise brigades.

(5) Suggest modification of Standing Order of Procedure, if necessary.

(6) Ensure implementation of Standing Order of Procedure in SRD strictly.

(7) Suggest modification of training map.

Logistic Support.

Maneuver brigade and his formation (player formation) will be responsible for the complete logistic support of the Brigade group. AHQ will only approve the plan for logistics and details will be planned, coordinated and supported by SRD CPG.

Comilla Area will provide both fresh and dry ration to the Brigade group. It shall also facilitate the maneuver brigade for movement, logistic, accommodation, medical etc. in its area of responsibility.

Opportunities for Socio-economic Development Projects

SRD also offers enormous opportunities for socio-economic development projects to be implemented in the island. The water in the ponds and canals can be utilized for fisheries projects, the island can be earmarked for cattle grazing area and military farm can function well. Already a military farm has been established in which milk is extracted, cheese is produced and cow/buffalo fattening is also possible.

The area also offers potentiality for bio-gas plants and it will be easy to establish in number of places. There are number of Bathans which needs to be relocated for number of reasons, and it should be done in one place. One area is selected in south western part of ‘Baro Awolia Khal’ for making “Mujib Killa”.

‘Mujib Killa’ will be the place for re-location of bathans from entire island. In this area (Mujib Killa) a number of bio-gas plant can be constructed. The area also offers opportunity for crab fattening project, paddy cultivation, plantation, forestation etc. The wish list for socio-economic development projects are as follows:

a. Fisheries projects.

b. Mujib Killa (relocation of Bathans).

c. Water purification plants.

d. Medical facilities.

e. Workshop facilities.

f. Paddy fields

g. Cattle grazing area (buffalo/cow fattening projects).

h. Solar power plant projects.

i. Forestation.

j. Bio-gas plants, etc.

The probable areas for socio-economic development projects are attached as Annex D to this paper.

Miscellaneous Aspects

Dual Use of Land.

Many part of the SRD can be used for Dual or multipurpose role. These areas may be thickly vegetated area i.e. south of Baro Awolia Khal and far down south areas.

Earmarking of Areas.

There are requirement of earmarking of areas either by pillars or by any other means to avoid duplication/confusion.

Master Plan.

There is a requirement of preparing master plan for SRD. It should cover exact location for each element or each wish list. This master plan should be the baseline for all development projects.

Concept of Construction.

According to the report submitted by MIST, island is increasing in its size but it is stable. As such, all types of construction must be done in accordance with the master plan. A coordinated effort (AHQ, QMG’s Br, AHQ, GS Br, MT Dte & TF HQ) must be pursued to convert the island for a place for training, socio-economic development projects and research & development projects.

Conclusion

SRD will be the major exercise area in the coming days. As such, a comprehensive guideline is necessary for the balance of development of the island, as well as effective training for the maneuver brigades. All concerned stakeholders (player formation, AHQ, Area HQ Comilla, TF HQ etc.) need to play their role to convert the island into an ideal training ground and utilize its other potentials to the fullest. It is not only the stakeholders but also the exercising brigades who should also prepare for reaping maximum benefit from the potentials of the SRD.

The maneuver exercise, generally entails a huge move with resources from Army and at times from sister services which needs lot of high level coordination. The cost of training also increases due to the movement and many other factors, as such the effort to get benefit from the training must be greater than that of its area of responsibility.

The process of converting the island into a complete maneuver area is continuing and side by side the other potentials of the island [like socio-economic development projects, ecological balance, afforestation, infrastructural and projects (like solar power, water purification etc.) complementing improved living conditions] are also being implemented. There is a requirement of a master plan for the SRD and all efforts directed towards development of the island must be coordinated by an apex body. Only in such case, the island will be utilized fully and in a planned manner. Bangladesh Army will definitely be benefitted from the training and socio-economic development projects potentials of SRD.

Recommendations

The recommendations are as follows:

a. A central organization (namely SRD CPG) need to be formed immediately and they should be given the overall responsibility of SRD.

b. There is a requirement of preparing a comprehensive master plan for SRD, basing on which all plans will be executed.

Annexes:

A. Proposed Command and Control (C2) Relationship of SRD CPG.

B. Time Plan for Exercise Planning.

C. Wish List to Conduct the Training in SRD.

D. Wish List for Socio-Economic Development Projects in SRD.

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1 Government Order was published in favour of Bangladesh Army for a permanent lease, with the clause of security of coastal char areas, maintaining law and order situation and afforestation on 14 November 2013 by Ministry of Land.

2 Bathan is a place composed of 2-3 huts, constructed over a raised ground and has 2-3 ponds for collecting sweet water. Sheep, cows and buffalos are fattened here by the owners. The raised ground is used for protection of human and animals from water surge, cyclones, tide water etc and ponds are used for collecting sweet water harvesting to be used by humans and animals.

Source: Bangladesh Army Journal 60th Issue [2016]
 

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