Discontent in Bandarban’s Chandra Pahar- Impediment of a Desired Development Project

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Parvedge Haider

Development in any form is always desired by the human being. Since the ancient age, there are gradual development everywhere with the call and need of time. Unfortunately, any development venture taken by the Government or other organization are always obstructed by the interested corner in Chattagram Hill Tracts(CHT). There was obstruction by tribal regional parties while establishing medical college in Rangamati; there is also continuous criticism against all the tourism projects in CHT by the vested corners, although the prime beneficiary is the local tribal and Bengali people. Due to expansion of tourism, the day to day life style of the people have been settled. Well, it is also true, the organization or person who all are taking some new venture, should consider the local custom and practices. Recently a tourism project undertaken in Bandarban’s Chandra Pahar has become a point a discussion. It is projected by the protesters that the venture is undertaken against the desire of local people. Is that true? In this short write up, an analysis will be conducted to exhume the possible details.

Chandra Pahar is located in Bandarban’s Chimbuk area. This place is also termed as Naitong hung (hill) by the local Mro community. The construction work of a five-star hotel, Marriott Hotel and Amusement Park- a US-based hospitality company Marriott International, has been planned in this hill. R&R Holdings Limited and Army Welfare Trust are jointly implementing this project. The project area, alongside the Chimbuk-Thanchi road, is located 47 km from Bandarban district town and 3 km from Nilgiri. Chandra Pahar is about 2,400 feet above plain land and the hotel will have a 360-degree view of its surroundings. Although the project is being implemented on a 20 acre land, under a 50 year lease from Bandarban Hill District Council, some vested corner is creating agitation among the local Mro community by propagating that the project is being implemented in 800-1,000 acres of land.

The project will be one of the best tourist attractions in Bangladesh. Besides the seven-storied main hotel building, there will be four five-storied buildings, 23 separate villas or cottages, two presidential suits, and two helipads over the two staff quarters. The project includes a modern cable car system to facilitate tourists’ travel from Marriott to Nilgiri so that tourists can roam from one hill to another without hassle. There will also be various kinds of amusement facilities, including rides, swimming pools and artificial lakes. Marriot will manage the hotel and the amusement park. The profit will be shared between the three partners. Bandarban Hill District Council will also make a profit of 8%.

Photo-1: Banner of the Project

A vested quarter is reportedly spreading propaganda through social media against this mega tourism project as a part of conspiracy to stop construction work of development projects in hilly areas permanently. This interested corner is misguiding the local people by saying that the locals will be affected if the proposed five-star hotel is built. They are trying to demotivate the people of Kapru Para and Dhola Para area, located 1.5km and 2km from the tourist spot that the jhum cultivation will be highly affected by the project. Some leaders of leftist political parties are pushing local people to organize processions opposing the construction of the international-standard tourist hotel and resort. Banners protesting the project could be seen in almost every small para and village from Bandarban town to Nilgiri.

Photo-2: Banner of the Protesters

Some vested corner is trying to defame this mega project displaying some fabricated explanations. They are exploiting the simplicity of Mro community. They are providing required funds to stage rallies and demonstrations against the ‘Marriott Hotel and Amusement Park’ development project. The vested corner is trying to organize demonstration and rally through social media like Facebook while also spreading propaganda against the development project as if the government took lease of 200 acres of hilly land in Chandra Pahar, although it is only 20 acres. The interested corner is spreading propaganda opposing the construction work with an ill motive to establish supremacy and conduct various illegal activities like extortion in the areas. Kyaw Shwe Hla, Chairman of Bandarban Hill District Council, said several quarters including some local political groups have become active against the project for their illicit political gain.

Hill District Council Chairman Mr. Kyaw Shwe Hla at a press conference on November 22, 2020 said, “There has been no Mro settlement in the Naitong Hill of Chimbuk area ever. It is not entirely true that if a tourist spot is built, it will directly affect four and indirectly affect eighty Mro villages. The land was leased to the army on 18 conditions, which included not cutting down hills, not taking any action that would harm the environment, and giving priority to locals during recruitment”. Moreover, according to the locals, there was no human inhabitation in the nearby 2.5kms of the tourism project area of Chandra Pahar as the place remained abandoned for years.

The agreement with the Hill District Council was made on December 27, 2015. Then onwards the project is being materialized in phases. There was no procession since then; now the obstruction has been created when the final work is underway. According to R&R Holdings, none of the Mro people will be evacuated from the area. Already they have recruited 150 of them for various works. They will be more benefited after completion of the project.

The present situation is getting changed gradually. Now a days the vested corner is not able to influence the simple hearted Mro community. The locals have understood that they were being wrongly exploited by the vested corner. This project is no way creating harm for the local people, rather it is going to create huge job opportunities in future. The local people has started visualizing that the authorities will recruit from among the locals. They are also thinking of selling the locally produced fruits to the tourists by a good price upon construction of the international hotel in the area. They will also be able to open small shops to sell local products to the tourists in future. The locals have started dreaming of a comfortable stay and safe incomes which might be generated through this mega project.

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