So-called development destroying our livelihood, forest, environment: PCJSS representative in UNPFII 22nd session

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Hill Voice, 19 April 2023, International Desk: Priti Bindu Chakma, representative of the Parbatya Chattagram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS) said at the 22nd session of United Nations Permanent Forum on Indigenous Issues (UNPFII) that so-called development is destroying our livelihood, forest, environment which has impact on our health and climate changes for all.

He also said that for the sake of sustainable territorial health of the CHT region, there is no other option but to undertake and implement the development program in the region in accordance with the CHT Accord signed in 1997.

Yesterday (18 April 2023) in the morning session, Mr. Priti Bindu Chakma delivered his statement on Item 3: Special theme of the session: Indigenous Peoples, human health, planetary and territorial health and climate change: a rights-based approach at the 22nd session of the UNPFII taking place in New York since 17 April for two weeks.

In his statement he added that climate change and degradation of biodiversity and forest poses a serious threat to the territorial health and well-being of Indigenous peoples around the world. Disproportionate threats from climate change exist due to a range of factors including unique relationships with the natural environment, socioeconomic deprivation, a greater existing burden of disease, poorer access to and quality of health care, and political marginalization.

He said ‘The indigenous Jumma people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) are also under severe threat of territorial health today due to massive degradation of natural forest, destruction of biodiversity and sources of water bodies.

From among such development engineering mechanism, the effective ones that are affecting indigenous Jumma peoples include: giving the traditional Jum-farming land and Mouza lands in leases to the non-residents, establishment of luxurious tourist centers, construction of border roads and link roads by destroying natural forest, establishment and expansion of security forces camps, etc.’

He said, ‘For example, the government of Bangladesh, through the army, continue to construct the border road and its link roads along the Myanmar and India border destroying houses, plantations, schools and temples of indigenous peoples, evicting indigenous villages and destroying natural forests and hills in the area without any consultation and consent with the CHT Regional Council, the three Hill District Councils, traditional leadership as well as local indigenous Jumma peoples. This so-called development is destroying our livelihood, forest, environment which has impact on our health and climate changes for all.’

In the conclusion of his statement, he said, ‘In this case, according to the CHT Accord, it is essential to properly introduced the special governance system of the CHT by transferring the administrative and economic powers and functions to the CHT Regional Council and the three Hill District Councils and withdrawing all the temporary camps and de facto military rule from the CHT.

Once the Accord is implemented fully, our Indigenous Jumma peoples would regard it as territorial health improvement and retain the forest, hills and sources of water bodies as such for planetary health enhancement for all.’

A three-member delegation of PCJSS led by Pritibindu Chakma is attending the 22nd session as representatives of the (PCJSS). Apart from this, Pallab Chakma, executive director of Kapaeeng Foundation, Binotamoy Dhamai, expert member of EMRIP, Shohel Chandra Hajong and Chandra Tripura as representatives of AIPP are participating in this hogh-level UN conference. On behalf of the government of Bangladesh, Mosammat Hamida Begum, the Secretary of the Ministry of CHT Affairs and Nikhil Kumar Chakma, Chairman of the CHT Development Board, representatives of military intelligence agency DGFI, NSI and Prime Minister’s Office are participating.

The 22nd session of the UNPFII started on 17 April and continues to 28 April 2023 at the United Nations headquarters in New York, USA.