Published:  12:23 AM, 05 March 2019

'There have been transformative changes in Chittagong Hill Tracts'

'There have been transformative changes in Chittagong Hill Tracts' Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura, ndc, Chairman, Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB)
Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura, ndc, Chairman, Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB), former Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs and former Chairman, International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) recently visited The Asian Age office. He also served Bangladesh Police as Additional Inspector General. Currently he is also President of Bangladesh Adventure Foundation. Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura talked about different aspects of Chittagong Hill Tracts during an interview with The Asian Age which was taken by Mahfuz Ul Hasib Chowdhury

The Asian Age (AA): Thank you for visiting The Asian Age. How long have you been holding the post of Chairman, Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB)?

Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura (NBKT): Thanks for inviting me to your office. I held the post of Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs from 2011 to February 2018. As an additional charge I held the post of Chairman, Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board for four years and four months which ended on 28 February 2018. However, Government has reappointed me as Chairman, CHTDB on contract for next three years which will continue till March 2021.

AA: Please tell us in brief about the establishment of Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB).

NBKT: The idea of forming a separate Board for the development of CHT was first conceived by Bangabandhu. On behalf of Bangabandhu the then Land Reforms and Land Administration Minister Mr. Abdur Rob Serniabat declared on 9 August, 1973 at Rangamati Circuit House that there would be a separate Board for the accelerated development of Hill Tracts.

During his second visit to CHT on 12 February 1975 Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman proposed a number of pragmatic programs for the development of Hill Tracts in all respects. He made special emphasis on the speedy uplift of the hitherto backward areas.

Unfortunately Bangabandhu was assassinated on 15 August, 1975 and through bureaucratic process the CHT Development Board came into being in January 1976. For this reason some people thought CHTDB was created by Ziaur Rahman but the fact is that CHTDB was the outcome of Bangabandhu's statesmanlike foresightedness and prudence for the welfare and development of ethnic people of CHT.

AA: To what extent the Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Treaty has been implemented?

NBKT: Chittagong Hill Tracts Peace Treaty has four parts and seventy two sections or provisions. So far 42 sections have been fully implemented, 15 sections have been partially implemented while 9 sections are under the process of implementation.

But the claim is not accepted by the Parbattya Chattogram Jana Samhati Samiti (PCJSS), the regional political party that signed the Accord with the government. PCJSS is of the view that core issues like preserving the tribal characteristics of the region, transfer of land, police and law order etc to HDCs remain unresolved.

AA: What development projects have you taken up for the development of Chittagong Hill Tracts?

NBKT: When I joined as Chairman, CHTDB in December, 2013 there was only one project other than many ongoing small schemes. Now there are as many as 14 projects which are being implemented by CHTDB in three hill districts and half a dozen more projects are in the pipeline.

The important projects are Sustainable Social Services in CHT, Solar Project, Mix Fruits Project, Bamboo Project, Cow Rearing Project, Spices Project, Road Communication Projects etc. CHTDB has projects and schemes in all 121 Unions and 375 Mouzas of three hill districts. I can say with pride that over the years the name CHTDB has become synonymous with the 'development of CHT'.
AA: What initiatives have been taken to preserve the biodiversity of Chittagong Hill Tracts?

NBKT: Preserving biodiversity is a national challenge. Massive afforestation is required to conserve the wild life, forestry and biodiversity of Chittagong Hill Tracts. Saving natural resources is very important to retain ecological balance. Climate change is a global concern in the present world including Bangladesh. It is also a matter of great concern for CHT region which is vulnerable to climate change.

AA: A great deal of development work is currently going on all over Bangladesh. Keeping this in view how would you evaluate the development that Chittagong Hill Tracts have gained so far?

NBKT: Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been working hard for the all round speedy development of Bangladesh. Bangladesh has become a model for other developing countries. Chittagong Hill Tracts consist of one tenth of Bangladesh. There have been transformative changes in Chittagong Hill Tracts.

Let me give one example, at the time of our independence in 1971 there were only 50 kilometers of metal road in Chittagong Hill Tracts whereas at present there are 1500 kilometers of metal road. In other areas also progress has been made in the foregoing years. Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board has been working tirelessly for the development of the region.

AA: How is the law and order situation in the Chittagong Hill Tracts these days?

NBKT: After the brutal assassination of Bangabandhu Chittagong Hill Tracts plunged into bloody tribal insurgency that continued for more than two decades. After the signing of the historic CHT Accord on 2 December 1997 the public order situation has improved rapidly. Now it is almost normal except for some incidents of killings and kidnappings by the regional political parties which are the result of their internal feuds.

AA: What roles Chittagong Hill Tracts can play to boost tourism in the country?

NBKT: We look forward to promoting eco-friendly, sustainable and responsible community based tourism in the Hill Tracts. Our aim is to promote tourism through involving the local people while preserving local cultural, heritage and natural resources. Hill District Councils will formulate the policy regarding tourism. As per Peace Accord 'Local Tourism' has been transferred to HDCs. Tourism can generate local employment through forward and backward linkages in different sub-sectors including accommodation, food, transportation, cultural and landscape services.

A comprehensive tourism Master Plan including development of new destinations and trails, as well as product and service development is required to help tap the potential of tourism in the CHT, including the 725 sq km Kaptai Lake area. Part-4, Section-9 of the CHT Accord says, "Keeping in view the environment of this region, the Government shall encourage the development of tourism facilities for the tourists, both domestic and foreign."

AA: Indigenous people are there in many countries of the world like American-Indians in USA, Aboriginals in Australia and Sami people in Scandinavian countries. If we compare how is the condition of small ethnic communities of Chittagong Hill Tracts?

NBKT: It is important to note that the ILO convention on Indigenous and Tribal Populations, 1957 (no. 107) was ratified by the Government of Bangabandhu in 1972 immediate after independence. The focus of convention 107 is to recognize and protect the cultural, religious, civil and social rights of indigenous and tribal populations within an independent country and to provide a standard framework for addressing the economic issues that many of these communities face.

By inserting Article 23A in the Constitution through 15th Amendment the Government of Bangladesh has pledged to preserve and promote the unique local culture of the tribal and ethnic communities of Bangladesh. I do not say that all the problems of the ethnic people of CHT have been resolved but when you ask me to compare with others I can say with confidence government of Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has been doing a lot for the rapid uplift of CHT people.

AA: Thank you sir for sharing your valuable time with The Asian Age.

NBKT: You are most welcome.

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