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The CHT and climate refugees

My attention has been drawn to a letter published in Quick Comments under the above heading. My organisation and I strongly oppose the writer’s proposal to rehabilitate the climate refugees in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, where population density is quite high when the matter is considered in the context of the arable land and population ratio.

And because of this, the influx of 400,000 settlers back in the late ‘70s and early ‘80s of the last century has led to unending violent conflicts over land and resources of the area. In these conflicts, thousands of Jumma people lost their lands to the settlers, and even after the signing of the CHT treaty in 1997 we continue to lose our valuable lands and right to forest and mineral resources. In other words, the process of land alienation of our people has never stopped. This is a shame because we are also free citizens of this country, and we, as Jumma people, have as much right to enjoy our right to land and resources and to preserve our culture and heritage as you have to be rehabilitated honourably as climate refugees without affecting other’s rights.
This is precisely why many political analysts as well as military officers of Bangladesh agree that the transplantation of the settlers during the rule of Ziaur Rahman and General Hussain Muhammad Ershad for political purposes has been a total disaster. This has created more problems than it solved. And any more settlers will only lead to further complication of the already volatile situation. The Jumma people, who are on the verge of being outnumbered by the outsiders, will vehemently oppose such a move.
As fellow citizens we sympathise with those who are directly affected by climate change, many of whom face displacement. We must find a way out to rehabilitate the prospective climate refugees. One option is to demand that the rich industrialised countries that are primarily responsible for climate change and the consequences it has produced in our country, take all or the bulk of these refugees. Alternately, we should demand that they give us adequate funds as compensation to rehabilitate these people near their present place of abode.
Aongay Marma
General Secretary, Hill Students Council

Source: http://www.newagebd.com/2009/dec/19/fb.html

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