Memorandum to PM demanding an end to land grabbing for tourism by army

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Hill Voice, 7 October 2020, Bandarban: Local indigenous leaders have submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding closure of construction of five-star hotels and luxury tourism installation on the Chimbuk hill in Bandarban Hill District.

On 7 October 2020 the representatives of the Mro people living in Kaprue Para, Dolapara Erapara and Chimbuk Hill submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister through Bandarban Deputy Commissioner demanding closure of luxury tourism facilities including five-star hotels on Bandarban Chimbuk Hill. This memorandum has been signed by around one and a half hundreds of local indigenous people in the area.

According to the memorandum, on 12 September, the Dhaka Tribune reported that the five-star Hotel Marriott will be built on Chimbuk Hill in a joint venture between the 24th Infantry Division of the Bangladesh Army in Chittagong and the 69th Infantry Brigade in Bandarban, Army Welfare Trust and Sikdar Group (R&R Holdings). The hotel building will be accompanied by 12 separate luxury villas, a modern cable ride and a swimming pool. As a result of the recent occupation of land by the Army Welfare Trust and some corporate companies in the name of tourism, it has become difficult for the indigenous people to survive.

The memorandum further said, ‘Army Welfare Trust has occupied land in Y Junction, Chimbuk top area, Kapru Para area in the name of Nilgiri. Similarly, on the Alikadam-Lama road of the same Chimbuk range, an area of about 6 km from 21st km to 26th km of Crowdong hill has been marked with Army Reserved Area signboards. No one is being allowed in there. Restoration of the Kuling Mro Para, which was evicted during the turbulent situation in the area in the 1980s, is also being obstructed.

The memorandum said, ‘The location and extent of the total illegally occupied land is from the Kaprue Mro Para of 47th kilometer of the Bandarban Chimbuk-Thanchi road (Army run Nilgiri resort Area) to the 52nd kilometer of Jibannagar via Naitong hill (Chandrapahar, the name given by Army Welfare Trust). An area of around five kilometers from one end to the other. The amount of land is more than eight hundred (800) acres.’

It further mentions, “The Sikdar Group (R&R Holdings), owned by the fugitive accused in the assassination attempt on the MD of Army Welfare Trust and Exim Bank, is illegally occupying more than 800 acres of land mentioned above on the Bandarban-Chimbuk-Thanchi road during the Corona virus disaster.”

It is further said, ‘the lands at Dolapara and Kapru Para, which are completely occupied illegally, have been inhabited by more than a hundred Mro families in these neighborhoods for generations by cultivating fruit gardening and plantation. At present, the army is not allowing them to enter their lands and plantations.

Pictures of signboards erected by the army occupying the place of the Jummas

The memorandum also mentions, ‘Recently, members of the army surveyed this huge area and put up signboards and poles at various places. As a result, hundreds of years of forest, Crematorium land, Jum farming land and plantations have been occupied by the army.

In this situation, Kapru Para, Dolapara and Erapara will be evicted. Similarly, Markinpara, Longbaitang Para, Mensing Para, Riyamanaipara and Menring Para have been under threat of eviction. The local army camp threatened the Karbaris and residents of the neighborhood not to think about these occupied lands after being called them at camp.

It is to be mentioned that as per the demand of Army Welfare Trust and Sikder Group, 16 acres of land was applied for Bandarban Army Zone from the Ministry of Defense in 2007 (Memorandum Prom / E-3/2006 / D-9/267 dated 11.07.2007). In that application, the location of 16 acres of land was first mentioned as Jibannagar. In the same application, location of the same 16 acres has been stated in Kapruepara of No. 355 Sepru Mouza.

At the end of the memorandum, it is said that ‘building luxury hotels and accommodation for hundreds of officials by cutting down hills, building dams on hill streams and springs would pose a serious threat to the natural environment. Therefore, they demanded to stop the acquisition of this land immediately. This type of land grabbing is also to be in violation of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Accord and the existing laws of the CHT.

Besides, a copy of the memorandum was sent to the Land Minister, CHT Affairs Minister, Chairman of CHT Regional Council, Secretary of Land Ministry, Secretary of CHT Affairs Ministry, Resident Coordinator of United Nations in Bangladesh and Country Director of International Labor Organization (ILO).

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