Tapping the Potential of the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh to Improve People’s Lives

01 Feb 2012


Kathmandu, Nepal

The Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, Bangladesh, and the Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) convened a seminar last week to plan strategies and mechanisms for conserving natural resources to improve the lives of the people of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). The seminar brought together 100 policy makers, development practitioners, researchers, and donors. 

Concerns raised in the seminar included accelerated deforestation and unsustainable agricultural practices, including monoculture of tobacco, ginger, aroids, turmeric, and other root crops. These activities have contributed to soil erosion, land degradation, reduced agricultural productivity, reduced food security and persistent poverty of local people.

The seminar drew attention to areas of great potential for the development of the Chittagong Hill Tracts. Hill ecosystems offer special advantages for production of certain cash crops, horticulture, agroforestry, and attracting tourists. Carbon storage and carbon sequestration offer new possibilities for economic reward. The seminar emphasised the development of markets for environmental services provided by the CHT to increase the income and improve the livelihoods of local people. Biodiversity conservation through better management of land, water, watersheds, forest, and other natural resources is key to the sustainable development of the area.

HT Imam, Adviser to the Prime Minister, Government of Bangladesh, opened the seminar by highlighting the need for rapid economic and social development of the Chittagong Hill Tracts.“The CHT Peace accord opened the door for development in the area”, he said. Another Adviser to the Prime Minister, Dr Moshiur Rahman, spoke of the importance of integrating the ethnic communities into mainstream development, emphasising that this must be done “without eroding their culture, values, and norms”. NBK Tripura, Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs, stressed the need to improve the socio-economic conditions of the poor people of the CHT without degrading the area’s natural resources. 

Dr David Molden, Director General, ICIMOD, emphasised the need for sharing of learning and knowledge in the sustainable development of the CHT. “ICIMOD will make all efforts to integrate the knowledge, information, and technology of the Hindu Kush–Himalayan region in support of the sustainable development of Chittagong Hill Tracts”, he said. 

Other high-level speakers included Jatindra Lal Tripura and Shah Alam, Members of Parliament; and Andre Bogui and Stefan Priesner, Bangladesh Country Directors of the International Labour Organization (ILO) and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), respectively. The seminar was chaired by Dipankar Talukdar, State Minister, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs.

A clear message that came from the seminar is that peace and security are prerequisites for the sustainable development of the CHT and improved quality of life for local people. Coordinated efforts are also required for the sustainable development of the CHT.   

For more information please contact: 

Nira Gurung
Communications Officer
Email: ngurung@icimod.org 
Tel +977-1-5003222 Fax +977-1-5003277