Hill Voice, 13 September 2020, Bandarban: By evicting the local Jumma people and endangering their livelihood, a giant tourist complex is being set up at the foot of the hill of Nilgiri in Bandarban, in a joint venture between the Army and the Sikder Group, with the main hotel building and 12 separate villas, modern cable cars, to facilitate tourists from one hill to another. Construction of a five-star Marriott Hotel and Amusement Park has begun in the Nilgiri of Bandarban on the Chimbuk-Thanchi road and 47 kilometres southeast of Bandarban district town.
According to a press release issued on 12 September 2020 Saturday, the project is being implemented jointly by the 24th Division of the Bangladesh army, the 69th Brigade, Army Welfare Trust and R&R Holdings Limited at the initiative of Sikder Group. It is being built under a 35-year contract between Sena Kalyan Trust (Army Welfare Trust) and R&R Holdings Limited in the hilly area around the scenic Nilgiri.
It is located on the Chimbuk-Thanchi route and 47 km south-east of Bandarban district town. In addition to the main hotel building, there will be 12 separate villas, modern cable cars for the convenience of tourists traveling from one hill to another. There will also be a variety of recreational facilities, including rides and swimming pools.
It is to be noted that earlier, according to the documents, the Nilgiri Tourism Center was set up by the army on 16 acres of land. But locals complained that in reality, the tourist center of the army occupied at least 60 acres of land. There are also allegations that the army have occupied huge hilly lands belonging to the impoverished and generally backward Jumma people for setting up resorts, restaurants, shopping centers, etc. at Dala Mro Para (Jibannagar), Kapru Mro Para (Nilgiri), Chimbuk Shola Miles, Y Junction (12 Miles), Keokradong Peak in Keokradong Hill of Ruma upazila etc. As a result, about 200 families from 6 villages of the Mro and Marma communities in these areas who have been staying there for centuries have been affected and are on face of eviction.
It is also learnt that for the security of the luxurious Nilgiri Vacation Center in the Kapru Mro Para area of Chimbuk Hill, the authorities of the Army Camp and the 69th Infantry Brigade of Bandarban restricted the local Jumma people from doing any kind of gardening, plantation and other work in an area of about four kilometers from Nilgiri in Kapru Mro Para. That vast land (approximately 600 acres) was seized by the army using their military power. Besides, Anindya Tourism Center has been set up in Ruma Upazila by evicting the indigenous people. In addition, the army has occupied about 500 acres of hilly land in the so-called Jibannagar area under Sepru mouza of this upazila. At least 129 families in three villages will be affected.
At the initiative of the army and the BGB, a luxury tourist center has been set up in Ruilui Valley in Sajek union of Baghaichari upazila of Rangamati district. The tourist center has already evicted five Jumma families and the army has built houses with tin fences for them. It can be said that this arrangement has been made to show the indigenous people like zoo animals to the tourists. As a result of this tourist center, 65 more Jumma families from two nearby villages are under threat of eviction. The construction of this tourist center will adversely affect the forest resources and natural environment of Sajak due to road construction and public gatherings.
It is pertinent to note here that according to the CHT Accord of 1997 and the three Hill District Council Acts enacted as per the Accord, local Tourism, i.e. tourism in the Hill District, is a subject or function under the purview of the three Hill District Councils. Although the subject of local Tourism was transferred to the three Hill District Councils in 2014, it was not handed over properly. No department or tourist center run by Bangladesh Tourism Corporation or any other organization has been handed over to the Hill District Councils. The three Hill District Councils did not have jurisdiction over anything other than the tourism projects undertaken by the Councils themselves, which is completely contrary to the CHT Accord. On the other hand, various government agencies and authorities, the army and various business organizations have been setting up and operating tourist centers in the three hill districts in violation of the Hill District Council Act and the CHT Regional Council Act.
The CHT Regional Council held a meeting with the Tourism Ministry in 2015 to transfer the local tourism function to the Hill District Council through an executive order by cancelling the agreement through which the local tourism function was inappropriately handed over in 2014. The decision was adopted to transfer the subject of Tourism including all the concerned offices and institutes related to function of the Tourism through executive order. But to date the decision has not been implemented.