Construction of dam in Sajek by army continues, 105 families face losses

Photo: Construction of dam is being measured by engineers

Hill Voice, 12 May 2020, Rangamati:  Even though the COVID-19 epidemic has caused stagnation in the public life of the hills, it has been reported that the initiative of the Bangladesh Army to build a dam at Sijakchhara in Sajek under Baghaichhari upazila of Rangamati district has not stopped. At least 105 families of indigenous villagers will be affected by this dam.

On May 10, 2020, in the invitation of Khagrachhari Deputy Commissioner Pratap Chandra Biswas and under the chairmanship of Water Resources Ministry Secretary Kabir Bin Anwar, a discussion meeting on this issue was held in the conference room of Khagrachhari district administration.

Although several government departments or ministries are involved in this initiative, the Bangladesh Army is known to be the main initiator of this dam construction.

According to local sources, in the last 3-4 months, members of the army have visited the site several times and measured the dam with engineers.

Besides, Minister for Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs (MoCHTA) Bir Bahadur, Secretary of the MoCHTA, GOC of 24thInfantry Division of Chittagong of the Army and Rangamati and Khagrachhari Brigade Commander and many others visited the proposed site.

It has been alleged that preparations are underway to build the dam on Sijakchhara (Sijak stream) near Brijpara in Sajek Union under Baghaichhari upazila, without notice of the local people and local authorities and without considering the free prior informed consent and rights of the people.

Meanwhile, the construction of the dam has created various worries and fears among the Jumma people of the area.

On the one hand, the role played by the army against the CHT Accord, various activities against the interests of Jumma people, repression on the rights activists supported to the Accord, house searches, harassment, detention of innocent ordinary people in the villages; On the other hand, their initiative to build this dam has caused deep concern among the Jumma people of the area.

Besides, the local Jumma people were not informed about this before taking this initiative and they were not discussed sincerely and transparently.

No survey has been conducted on the possible loss of properties and it has not been taken into consideration.

According to locals, the dam would damage at least 253 acres of land belonging to at least 105 indigenous Jumma families. Many of their lands and homesteads will be submerged in the dam water.

According to a source, the army has taken the initiative to build the dam mainly to enhance the beauty and facilities of tourism run by the army in Sajek.

The idea of the army is that if this dam is built, the water of the dam will go closer to the tourist facilities and it will be easier to supply water from the dam to the tourist resorts.

On the contrary, in addition to facilitating their own tourism business and movement, the initiative has been taken by the army to build this dam in an isolated and unilateral manner with the nefarious intention of harming the local Jumma people economically, socially, culturally and politically.

Many fear that the construction of the dam will destroy the livelihoods of the local Jumma people and evict them from their homesteads.