Bandarban tourism projects battle rumours, conspiracy

Ahamed Ullah, back from Bandarban

16 March, 2021 12:00 AM printer

A vested quarter is spreading rumours and hatching conspiracies against tourism infrastructure projects to hinder the development of the Chattogram Hill Tracts, tribal communities in Bandarban have alleged.

The tribal communities of Chattogram Hill Tracts want to see more modern hotels and resorts in these areas for the development of tourism as there is huge potential for tourism in three hill districts.

If modern resorts or hotels are built, the number of tourists from home and abroad will throng the hilly regions to enjoy the scenic beauty. This will improve the living standard of the local tribal community, they said.

If tourism flourishes in Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban, it will put a challenge to the existence of the vested groups, tribal people told the Daily Sun. 

The construction of an international standard hotel named ‘Marriott Hotel and Amusement Park’, is going on in Chandra Pahar, previously known as the Naitong hung (hill) of Bandarban.

 But vested groups continue to spread falsehood against the construction of the hotel in Chandra Pahar. The project is located at Jibon Nagar area under Lama upazila of the district.

 Winkhing, a student of Bandarban district, told the Daily Sun “We are in favour of developing the tourism industry in the area. If a modern resort or hotel is built, tourists from home and abroad will come here. This will improve our quality of life.”

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 was taken on lease for 40 years from the government as per the law of the country for the five-star hotel project at Chandra Pahar in Bandarban.

 Standing on top of Chandra Pahar, an elderly Mro from of Bandarban district said on Sunday, “I don’t understand what will happen to Dolapara if there is a five-star hotel here.”

“I learned from Facebook that 1,000 acres of land has been leased for a five-star hotel project here. But when I came here, I found out        

that only 20 acres of land has been allocated. How many more lies are being spread?” he said.

He said “Some have said it will harm Jhum farming in the mountains. But Jhum is never cultivated at such heights. Jhum farming is mainly done on small hills.”

“We believe that a five-star hotel in the uncultivated Chandra Pahar will provide employment to the local Mro people and increase their standard of living,” he said.

“Basically, some of our people are using this Chandra Pahar for the benefit of some quarters. There may be a conspiracy behind everything that is being said against the resort. We, the local hill dwellers, will benefit the most from this resort. We need to resist this vested quarter” he added.

Anti-state groups are campaigning that at least 10,000 Mro tribal people are living in the area.

But while visiting the construction site on Sunday, it was seen that the total people in the four adjoining neighbourhoods is around 850 and there is no risk of any of them being displaced.

Most nearby Dolapara is around 1.3 kilometres away from the Chandra Pahar and the main site of the project is farther away from Dolapara. But in foot one will have to walk around 2.5 km to reach Dolapara.

After a thorough investigation by this correspondent, it was confirmed that no residence of tribal people was living around the under-construction project.

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 spreading 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. No people live within a three-km radius of the site.” Therefore, the issue of demolition of graveyards through eviction of villages, neighbourhoods or construction of dams is completely irrational and baseless. There is no Bengali settlement within the 20 km radius of the area and there is no Bengali sole proprietorship project.

Sirajul Islam, general secretary of the Bandarban Hotel Owners Association, said “Domestic and foreign tourists would come if the hotel is established. We will get benefit from this. So, it should not be opposed.”

District Council Chairman Kyaw Shwe Hla at a press conference on November 22 clearly said there had been no Mro settlement in the Naitong Hill of Chimbuk Range area ever.

“It is not true that if a tourist spot is built, it will directly affect Mro villages,” he further said.

If the project is implemented, it will, directly and indirectly, provide employments to 1000 to 1500 tribal families. This project will transform CHT, especially Bandarban into a more developed tourist destination.

General people of the Mro community opined that if hotels, resorts and other tourism infrastructures are developed in the CHT area, huge employment will be generated. Common people will get easy access if communication systems are developed.

As a result, the anti-state activities of the armed terrorist groups of the regional political parties, including separatist and insurgent groups the United People’s Democratic Front (UPDF) and the Jana Samhati Samiti (JSS), will be curbed.

Some local tribal elites said that 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 terrorist activities of the UPDF and JSS will face serious resistance by locals.  If the area is not developed, extortion and terror activities of the two rival groups will continue, they said.

They said if extortions of the JSS and UPDF are decreased, they will not be able to buy illegal arms for their cadres. In such a case, JSS and UPDF will also fail to pay salaries to their party leaders and activists.

 At one stage, these two regional political parties will face serious difficulties even to politically survive due to the lack of arms and ammunition and extortion. If the rate of literacy is increased, the educated youths will resist the terrorism of the JSS and UPDF.

 Fearing such potential protests against terrorist-based regional politics of both JSS and UPDF, the controversial groups have gone against the development of the hill district Bandarban.

 Demanding an end to this situation, the Tribal and Bengali people said, “We want peace, we want to live together.”

 Local Mro community leaders said almost all tribal people of the Mro tribal community are in favour of the construction of the tourism site as it will significantly develop their socio-economic condition.