January 24, 2021, 4:53 am


Saleh Noman

Published:
2020-11-24 15:49:37 BdST

Plot against tourism dev in Bandarban


Based completely on wrong information and propaganda, a small fraction of locals is opposing the construction of an international-standard tourist spot and resort in Bandarban hill district.

Some personalities based in the capital have been supporting the fraction, which works for triggering unrest in the hill region, creating obstruction to the development in the Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT).

The initiative to build a tourism spot, including a resort on 20 acres of unused hill land at Chandrapahar of Lama upazila of Bandarban, has been taken to tap the tourism potential in the area.

R&R Holding, an affiliate of Sikder Group, a reputed entrepreneurial organisation of the country, and Army Welfare Trust, are building the tourism spot and resort in the remote area under joint venture, employing 200-250 people directly and another 500 indirectly.

The initiative began in 2016 with the permission of Bandarban Hill District Council, the executive authority of the hill district which functions under the CHT Peace Accord of 1997 and CHT Regional Council Act of 1998.

Vested quarters are protesting against the initiative since its construction began last month.

Kyaw Shwe Hla, Chairman of the Bandarban Hill District Council, said several quarters have become active against the project for political gain.

Hinting at Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), a signatory to the peace accord, he said, "Everyone knows who are doing this. They have been opposing any development project in the CHT. They don’t like peace.”

The project area is next to another tourist spot in Bandarban’s Nilgiri, 20 kilometres from Chimbuk Hill, a popular tourist destination.

There are no settlements within the project area, even within a kilometre. The nearest settlement on the north side of the project is Kalai Para, more than a kilometre away, where 28-30 Mro families live. On the south side, there is another settlement of Mro people called Dhala Para, which is at least two kilometres away.

A local administration source said the land in the project has been abandoned for years and no single people would be displaced for the construction of the resort.

No local people or signs of settlements were seen at the site, which is nearly 2,000 feet above the hilly area beside Bandarban-Thanchi Road, where a small number of vehicles ply. Only a few people involved in construction, and a team of the Bangladesh Army were found there during a recent visit to the site.

A signboard with a drawing of the hotel and resort under construction was seen.

When this correspondent entered the project area with the permission from the company people, he saw spaces for different buildings marked with yellow tape and different coloured flags and stands.

Disturbances of outsiders

The project has been much discussed in the CHT region since November 7, 2020, when a tiny portion of the ethnic minority people in the hill region started demonstrations against the tourism project.

The so-called protest took place at Kapro Para in Nilgiri area, the next settlement on Bandarban-Thanchi Road, which is 5 kilometres away from the project area.

While talking to this correspondent, small tribal traders in the Nilgiri tourist spot area said they did not know about the protest and they had no idea who organised it.

Asked about the Marriott Hotel and Resort, Toung Chong Mro (65), who was sitting at a tea stall with some others at Kapro Para, said he does not know anything about the hotel but advised the correspondent to visit a coffee shop, where some tribal youths were waiting, for information.

Donai Mro (22), one of the youths who identified himself as a student of Criminology Department of Dhaka University and a leader of Mro Student Association, a Dhaka-based organisation, told this reporter that he came from Rowangchhari upazila of Bandarban with another fellow to organise demonstrations.

“Many families will be displaced for the hotel construction,” Donai said, “Sources of earnings of locals would be abolished.”

Asked how many families will be displaced and from where, Donai Mro said, “Maybe 300 families.” But he could not mention where the area of the settlement is.

In reply to assertions that because of this project the area will develop and locals will be employed, he said, “Actually we’re not against development, but first we seek the livelihood development of locals as there is no school and hospital here.”

Dawaai Prue Naly (52), a member of Bohmong Circle King’s family in Bandarban city who identified herself as a rights activist opposing the hotel and resort project, said, “At least seven or eight settlements were set for destruction due to the project.”

When asked to name the settlements, or how many people are living there, she just said, “I don’t know. But this is our area. We don’t want the project.”

Meanwhile, the opposition to the project by vested quarters has sparked widespread outrage in Bandarban. Tribal and local Bengali people held rallies in front of the Bandarban Press Club last week, calling the quarters anti-development and anti-state.

They said the quarters are carrying out various misdeeds in the CHT.

Pro-development people said raw material for deadly heroin is cultivated on many acres of land in the isolated hilly areas of Bandarban and that is seen as the reason they do not like people to go there.

Mujibur Rahman, vice-president of Bandarban Citizens Committee and ex-General Secretary of Bandarban Awami League, said the vested quarters in CHT were identified long ago for their criminal and anti-state activities. They are always opposed to any development projects.

“They’re not only anti-development; they’re also an anti-Bangladesh force. They’re blaming the government in various ways. They’re conducting out armed activities and attacking the army and other law enforcers,” he added.

Bandarban is the second most attractive tourist destination after Cox’s Bazar in Bangladesh. But due to the lack of necessary facilities in the hill district, it is not possible to attract adequate number of domestic and foreign tourists. With this in mind, initiatives were taken to build the star quality hotels and tourist centres there.

The concept paper of the Mountain Resort Conference held in Georgia in 2017 under the auspices of the World Tourism Organisation mention that the mountain destinations are seeking innovative strategies to respond to the current and future challenges in order to optimise the value of return on investments in infrastructure and to maintain their competitive edge.

Visitors are increasingly looking for new and diversified experiences in mountain destinations all through the year.

The Chandrapahar Resort and Tourism spot is a project that will turn the area into an international tourist destination.

The 24th Division and the 69th Brigade of Bangladesh Army, Army Welfare Trust and R&R Holdings Limited, a concern of Sikder Group, are jointly implementing the 5-star Marriot Hotel and Amusement Park project.

The facility is being built under a 35-year lease and profit-sharing agreement between Army Welfare Trust and R&R Holdings Limited at the exquisitely beautiful Nilgiri surrounded by hills.

It is on the Chimbuk-Thanchi route and 47 kilometres southeast of Bandarban district town. Once implemented, the project will be one of the best tourist attractions in Bangladesh.

Besides the main hotel building, there will be 12 separate villas, modern cable cars to facilitate tourists’ travel from one hill to another. There will be various kinds of amusement facilities, including rides and swimming pools.

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