Wednesday, January 13, 2010


6 January 2010

To Honourable Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina
Government of the Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh
Prime Minister’s Office Tejgaon, Dhaka

Subject:-Decision to develop tourism in CHT not in conformity with 1997 Peace Accord

Honourable Prime Minister,
The CHT Commission (“CHTC”) congratulates the Awami League‐led government on completing a year in office. At our last meeting with Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina on August 17, 2009, members of the Commission were heartened when she reasserted her personal commitment to overseeing the implementation of the CT Accord in the span of her government’s current five‐year tenure of office.

We have learned, however, that the Parliamentary Standing Committee (PSC) of the Planning Ministry decided, on 23 December 2009, to develop tourism in the CHT region, contrary to the CHT Accord since the Hill District Council (HDC) was not present and had not been consulted. The PSC met, irregularly, under the CHT Development Board in Rangamati with Committee Chairman Col (retd) Oli Ahmed in the chair. To facilitate tourism, the PSC also resolved to build a road along the bank of the Kaptai Lake and to set up various recreational facilities as part f this project. The road would be connected with Bandarban, Khagrachari and Chittagong district.

There have also been reports in the media that the upazila administration in Bandarban is illegally grabbing land belonging to arma and Bawm communities in the name of tourism development centres (“Allegations of tourism development on Adibashi land in Bandarban” ‐‐Daily Prothom Alo, 24 December 2009; “Adibashis aggrieved at the building of ‘Shorgochura’ tourism centre in Bandarban municipal area” ‐‐Daily Purbokon, 3 January 2010). 40 acres of land have allegedly been marked off with red flags by surveyors to build the tourist spots.

Section 34 in B (kha) of the CHT Accord (CHITTAGONG HILL TRACTS LOCAL GOVERNMENT COUNCIL/ HILL DISTRICT COUNCIL) provides that ‘Local Tourism’ will ‘be added in the functions and responsibilities of the Hill District Council’. These current acts
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are therefore in direct violation of the Peace Accord as the HDCs have not been involved in either the planning or the implemenation of these projects.

The CHTC is also not aware of any studies that have been carried out to assess the environmental impact of the proposed growth f tourism industry in the CHT. We respectfully suggest that expert consultants be invited to assess the sustainability and potential impact of large‐scale tourism on land and water resources. The potential for tourism needs to be linked to other developments in the region in a single comprehensive plan, in the formulation of which democratically elected HDCs should be fully involved.

Madam Prime Minister, the Government of Bangladesh, under your leadership, took a key role at the Copenhagen Climate Change talks. As was discussed at those talks, the world has seen untold environmental damage due to unplanned industrialization and development. Bangladesh is particularly vulnerable to climate change and related environmental damage. Preserving the extremely fragile and precious environment of the Chittagong Hill Tracts is therefore a priority.

The Commission thus urges Honourable Prime Minister to take the necessary steps to rescind the decision by the Planning Ministr to develop tourism centres in Chittagong Hill Tracts without ‐‐ a) consulting the Hill District Council
b) independently assessing the environmental impact
c) taking steps to make sure any new developments are not harmful to the environment
d) preventing further illegal land grabbing from indigenous communities in the name of development. The CHT Commission strongly believes that implementation of the CHT Accord is a must for strengthening democratic good governane, ensuring a people‐oriented and environmentally‐friendly development and rule of law in CHT. The government should immediately declare a roadmap to fully implement the CHT Accord within its present tenure.

On behalf of the CHT Commission
Eric Avebury
Sultana Kamal
Ida Nicolaisen
Co-chair of the CHT Commission

cc to:
1. Syeda Sajeda Chowdhury, Honorable Deputy Leader of the House & Chairperson of the National Committee for Implementation of the CHT Peace Accord.
2. Dr. Dipu Moni, Honourable Minister, Foreign Ministry, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Dhaka.
3. Barrister Shafique Ahmed, Honourable Minister, Law, Justice and Parliamentary Ministry, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka.
4. Mr. Syed Ashraful Islam, Honourable Minister, Local Government, Rural Development and Cooperative Ministry, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka.
5. Mr. Rezaul Karim Hira, Honourable Minister, Ministry of Land, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka.
6. Mr. Dipankar Talukdar MP, Honourable State Minister, Ministry of CHT Affairs, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka.
7. Mr. Hasan Mahmud, Honourable State Minister, Ministry of Forest and Environment, Government of the People’s Republic of Bangladesh, Bangladesh Secretariat, Dhaka.
8. Mr. Jyotirindra Bodhipriya Larma, Chairman, CHT Regional Council, Rangamati.
9. Mr. Promod Mankin, Honourable State Minister, Ministry of Cultural Affairs.
10. Mohammad Shah Alam, MP and Chairman, Parliamentary Standing Committee on CHT Affairs, Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban, Dhaka.
11. Mr. Jatindra Lal Tripura, MP and Chairman, Task Force on Rehabilitation of Returnee Refugees and IDPs, Khagrachari.
12. Mr. Bir Bahadur, MP and Chairman, CHT Development Board, Rangamati.
13. Justice Khademul Islam Chowdhury, Chairperson, CHT Land Commission.