Representatives and Headmen-Karbaris demand to cancel the decision to build border road and set up camp in Khagrachari

Photo: Road cutting scene

Hill Voice, 31 May 2022, Khagrachari: In a statement, elected representatives and headmen-Karbaris of Panchari upazila under Khagrachari hill district demanded cancellation of decision to construct Matiranga-Panchari-Dighinala border road and set up army camp at Shankhola Para in Panchari.

In a joint statement issued on May 30, 2022, 184 current and former representatives, Headman and Karbaris made the demand.

Among the signatories to the statement are Panchari Upazila Chairman Shanti Jiban Chakma, Logang Union Council Chairman Joy Kumar Chakma, former Panchari Upazila Council Chairman Sarbottam Chakma, Latiban Union Chairman and Headman Bhumidhar Royaja, Chengi Union Parishad Chairman Ananda Joy Chakma, Former Chairman Samar Bikash Chakma, Former Chairman of Chengi Union Anil Chandra Chakma, former Chairman Asetu Bikash Chakma and Kala Chand Chakma, Headman of No.244 Mouza Subdhan Royaja, Headman of Bara Panchhari Mauza Charu Bikash Royaza, Headman of proposed Yugalchhari Mauza Dhananjay Royaja.

The statement said, “We demand immediate cancellation of the decision to construct Matiranga-Panchari-Dighinala border road which is detrimental to forest and environment and public safety in the name of development and to set up an army camp at Shankhola Para in Panchhari for the road construction.”

The statement made the following arguments in support of the decision to cancel the decision to build the border road and set up an army camp:

First, the construction of this road will have a huge detrimental effect on the forest, environment and biodiversity in the area. In the light of objective research and our daily experience, we can say that the natural forests of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, where paved roads have been constructed, have become emptied. In other words, the construction of roads through the forest without considering the environmental aspect is one of the main reasons for deforestation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Secondly, no research or survey has been done on the environmental impact of the above border road in the area before the decision was taken. Due to the implementation of various projects in the name of so-called development in the last few decades, many forests have already been cleared in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. If hundreds of kilometers of border roads are built through the forest, the remaining forest will be lost forever. In case of border road or other roads, some facilities including travel are definitely available. But that is nothing compared to the environmental and other long-term damage.

Thirdly, no opinion or consent of the local people was taken before the decision to build the road was taken. However, according to various documents on indigenous issues, it is mandatory for the government to seek the prior consent of the local people before undertaking such projects. The public representatives and the people came to know about it only after the security forces called some local people’s representatives in Panchari BGB zone on 19 May 2022 and informed about the government this decision. Therefore, keeping the local people in the dark, the government has taken this decision unilaterally.

Fourthly, this road will pass through many hill peoples’ lands and plantations. As a result, they will be harmed. However, according to the law, their land was not acquired or compensated. The decision has been taken to build this border road for the development of the people by bypassing the people and by depriving the people of compensation and without going through any legal process, which is totally unacceptable to us.

Fifthly, the construction of this border road will increase the incidence of movement of outsider settlers, land grabbing, evictions and communal attacks. In a word, the security of life and property of the hill people will be threatened.

Sixthly, if there is a border road, the incidents of torture and harassment on the hill people in the name of patrol and raid by BGB and security forces will increase. It is to be noted that the security forces in the Chittagong Hill Tracts have almost always failed to provide security to the hill people; on the other hand, they deprive the hill people of security.

Seventhly, an army camp will be set up in Shankhola Para by occupying land of four hill men to manage the construction of the road. Road construction has already started there destroying forests and hills.