Though there is huge potential of tourism in Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT), vested quarters are trying to hinder its development there through carrying out propaganda against tourism-friendly projects to make their own gains.
If tourism flourishes in Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban, it will put a challenge to the existence of the vested groups, forcing them to go for the propaganda at home and abroad.They continue to spread falsehood against the construction of a five-star hotel, ‘Marriott Hotel and Amusement Park,’ in Chandra Pahar, previously known as Naitong Hung (hill), in Bandarban. The project is located at Jibon Nagar’s Chandra Pahar under Lama upazila of the district.
If it is built, the number of tourists from home and abroad will throng to the hilly region to enjoy its aesthetic and scenic beauty.
ATM Kawser Hossain, chief executive officer of the Bandarban District Hill Council (BDHC), said, “Those who are spreading propaganda against the tourism project are not local people and they’re presenting untrue information.”
Referring to the completely false claim of the possible eviction of the Mro tribal community, he said, “There’s no question of eviction due to the development project. Actually, no people live within a three-km radius of the site.”
Mro community members opined that if hotels, resorts and other tourism infrastructures are developed in the CHT area, huge employment opportunities will be generated. Common people will get easy access if communication systems are developed.
As a result, the anti-state activities of the armed terror groups of the regional political parties, including separatist and insurgent groups United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) and Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS), will be curbed.Some local tribal elites said if the tourism industry and infrastructures are massively developed in Bandarban, the activities of the security forces will be enhanced. As a result, extortion and terror activities of UPDF and JSS will face serious resistance by locals.
If the area is not developed, extortion and terror activities by the two rival groups will continue unabated, they said.
They said if extortion by JSS and UPDF is decreased, they will not be able to buy illegal arms for their cadres. In such a case, they will also fail to pay salaries to their party leaders and activists.
At one stage, these two regional political parties will face a serious existence crisis for lack of arms and ammunition in the absence of extortion. If the rate of literacy is increased, educated youths will resist terrorism of JSS and UPDF.
Fearing such potential protests against terrorist-based regional politics of both JSS and UPDF, the controversial groups are opposing the development of the hill district of Bandarban. Demanding an end to this situation, the tribal and Bangalee people said they want peace and live together.
Local Mro community leaders said almost all the members of the community are in favour of the construction of the tourism site as it will significantly enhance their socioeconomic condition.
Menlong Mro, a member of local Mro community, said, “Since there’re no settlements in Chandra Pahar, the matter of the eviction of the people is completely fabricated, false and motivated.” “Surprisingly, the construction of the hotel in Chandra Pahar started in 2015 but no one opposed it. But whenever the government is taking various initiatives in the CHT to attract domestic and foreign tourists for the development of the tourism industry, processions, rallies and long marches are being organised with the participation of a handful of people at the instigation of some vested interest groups and making people hostage at gunpoint.”
On November 17 last year, around 800 people of the Mro community gathered at the Bangabandhu Mukta Mancha in the district town of Bandarban protesting the baseless propaganda using the name of their community.
Mro leaders Mankong Mro, Atlat Rang Mro, Main Rang Mro and Manrang Mro spoke at the programme.
They also expressed their gratefulness for the planned development in CHT, including Chandra Pahar. The Mro tribal community also thanked security forces for ensuring their security. Bandarban district is one of the most attractive tourist districts of the country. But local and international tourists are facing various troubles for lack of international-standard hotels and resorts in the inaccessible hill district.
Vested quarters are making another false claim of occupying 1,000 acres of land for the project. But official documents show that only 20 acres of land were taken on lease for 40 years from the government as per the law of the country for the five-star hotel project.
After a thorough investigation by this correspondent, it was confirmed that no tribal people live within a three-km radius of the project under construction. Most nearby Dolapara is around 1.3 kms away from the Chandra Pahar and the main site of the project is farther away from Dolapara.
Anti-state groups are spreading false information that at least 10,000 Mro tribal people are living in the area. But in reality, the number of total people in the four adjoining neighborhoods is 817 and there is no danger of anyone of them being displaced.
Therefore, the issue of demolition of graveyards through eviction of villages/neighborhoods or construction of dams is completely irrational and baseless. There is no Bangalee settlement within a 20-km radius of the area and there is no Bangalee sole proprietorship project. District Council Chairman Kyaw Shwe Hla at a press conference on November 22 last clearly said there had been no Mro settlement in the Naitong Hill of Chimbuk area ever. “It’s not true that if a tourist spot is built, it’ll directly affect Mro villages,” he further said.
If the project is implemented, it will directly and indirectly provide employments for 1000-1500 tribal families. Besides, CHT, especially Bandarban, will go one step further in the development process.
The living standard of the hilly people will be improved through infrastructural development. Improved transportation system will be ensured and agricultural products produced by hilly people can be sold to tourists at fair prices. The business of shops and restaurants will improve the living standard of the local people. Besides, the security situation will also see improvement as the activities of the security forces will accelerate in the area. The overall development of the tourism industry will create opportunities for domestic and foreign tourists to enjoy the scenic beauty of Bandarban. In different countries of the world, tourism or recreation centres are built on public-private initiative for the development of the tourism industry in the natural beauty and diverse hilly areas.
In our neighbouring India and Nepal, the tourism industry has developed around the Himalayas extensively under the state support of the countries. At a time when the government is taking various initiatives to develop the tourism industry and attract domestic and foreign tourists, the vested quarter is conspiring to thwart a tourism-friendly project.