Many locals are engaged in various trade and commercial activities in tourism and hospitality sector in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) region, which changed the lives and livelihoods of people in the hilly regions.
CHT is the only extensive hilly area in Bangladesh comprising hills, forests, rivers, lake, natural waterfalls and other natural wonders, attracting thousands of tourists throughout the year.To expand the tourism sector in the hilly region, the government set up various tourist spots in CHT, including Sajek in Khagrachhari, Nilgiri in Bandarban and Happy Island in Rangamati.
With the availability of new income sources, many tribal youths who had been involved in various criminal activities, have also started returning to normal life.
The tribal people of the hilly districts said they want more tourist spots to be established in CHT to further improve their socio-economic situation in the hilly areas.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts have a total area of 5,093 square miles and a population of 1.6 million (as per census 2011).
According to Parjatan Corporation and the hilly people, there are many places in the hill tracts with huge tourism potentials.
The rush of tourists goes up during the months of December and January, which boosts the business of small and cottage industries in CHT.During a recent visit to CHT, the correspondent found that the local people are engaged in various small businesses now with the help of the security forces and local administration.
Earlier, life in the hilly region was difficult due to lack of economic opportunities in absence of development activities. But the situation has changed a lot over the years.
The people of the hill districts, especially in remote areas, are getting the benefits of improved infrastructure and many locals and are running hotels and restaurant businesses in their areas.
Maruti, a hotel and resort owner said “We used to cultivate Jhum earlier. It was very tough for us to survive. But now we have overcome the situation.”
“A few years ago, Bangladesh Army built a road from Bagaichhari to Sajek, which made road communication a lot easier. Now several thousands of Tribal people have come under the road network with the construction of the road from Baghaichhari to Sajek,” she added.
She said the tribal youths, who were earlier involved with armed terrorist groups, are operating various vehicles, including motorbikes, microbus and jeep to ferry the tourists through the remote hilly roads.
Recently, Bangladesh Army built a tourist spot named Happy Island, situated in the middle of Kaptai Lake. It became the main tourist attraction in Rangamati district as hundreds of tourists crowded the spot every day.
Earlier, the hanging bridge was in the centre of tourist attractions as well as green nature and lake in Rangamati. The island was built on 45 acres of land in the middle of the lakes at a cost of Tk 1.5 crore.
Some other popular tourist spots in CHT include Rechhang waterfall in Khagrachhari, Alutila mysterious cave in Khagrachhari, Dighinala Upovog Bihar,in Khagrachhari, Rangamati hanging bridge, Kaptai Lake in Rangamati, Rajban Bihar in Rangamati, Sharna Mandir in Bandarban, Ali Kadam in Bandarban, Boga Lake in Bandarban, Keokradong in Bandarban and Tajindong hills in Bandarban, Nilachal in Bandarban.
General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 24th Infantry Division and Chattogram Area Commander of Bangladesh Army Major General S M Matiur Rahman told daily sun, “Bangladesh army is providing all kind of security for all the domestic and foreign tourists in the hill areas.”