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Chattogram Hill Tracts’ adaptation efforts must focus on biodiversity conservation: experts

In the consultation jointly organised by the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEFCC), Economic Relations Division (ERD) and United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) with support from the Green Climate Fund (GCF), they expressed concerns over the native species destroying plantation and horticulture practices.

Although horticulture is bringing economic benefit to the farmers, rampant use of pesticides has emerged as a major threat to biodiversity, the UNDP said in a statement.

The objective of the consultation was to understand the local vulnerability issues and get feedback from the participants on these for incorporation in the NAP.

Considering different vulnerability factors including but not limited to extreme level water scarcity, deforestation, worsening biodiversity, flash flood Bandarban district was selected to conduct the consultation.

Additional Secretary of the MoEFCC and National Project Director of the NAP Formulation Project Md Mizanul Haque Chowdhury was present as the Chief Guest while Mr Amal Krishna Mandal, Join Secretary, Wing Chief, Economic Relations Division (ERD) was present as the Special Guest.

Deputy Commissioner Yasmin Parvin Tibriji chaired the consultation.

More than 80 representatives from district administration, local government representatives, civil society representatives, sectoral experts, professionals, journalists and academia attended the event and provided their valuable comments and feedback to enrich the plan with locally specific climate adversities and adaptation needs. Participants from different parts of the Rangamati and Khagrachari districts virtually joined the programme.

While delivering the keynote presentation, Prof Dr Ainun Nishat, team leader of the NAP Formulation Consortium said, “We will incorporate the locally-led adaptation practices in the NAP.”

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He drew examples from the changing patterns of the climate and added that Chattogram Hill Tracts is heavy rainfall region and it is a major contributing factor to flash floods causing wreak havoc.

“We have to adopt measures on how to tackle such challenges,” he added.

For the successful implementation of the NAP, he emphasised its incorporation in the local, national and sub-national development planning and transformative capacity building.

Khan Jamal Lusai, botanist and former academic highlighted the need to maintain the navigability of the rivers and regular flow of water in the hill Charas would transform the life and livelihood of the hill people.

“As there is no cultivable plain land, the hill people have no other choice but to do Jhum cultivation and produce cotton, vegetables and fruits,” he said.

Noting that jhum cultivation is not as productive as it was in the past, he called for the need to look beyond Jhum cultivation and introduce economic activities that support the livelihood of the hill people, he emphasised.

Ripon Chakma, executive director of Trinomul Unnayan Sangstha said, “Use of herbicide and pesticide in mango cultivation is destroying the hill ecosystem. Large scale horticulture destroying the native species is likely to harm the ecosystem and biodiversity in the entire hill tracts regions.”

Rafiqul Islam, deputy director of the Department of Agricultural Extension, said, “We can consider conducting a study on season-specific availability of water in different regions. Based on the findings, we can erect permanent dam and reservoirs on an experimental basis and harvest rainwater.”

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A K M Azad Rahman, UNDP’s programme officer for climate change, said, “Bandarban and the entire CHT needs special adaptation measures.”

Azad Rahman advocated for Village Common Forest (VCF), a traditional practice to conserve community land for ecosystem services among other adaptation measures.

The special guest Amal Krishna Mandal said, “We are confident that we will have a country-driven NAP that will document locally-led adaptation efforts.”

The chief guest Md Mizanul Haque Chowdhury informed the participants about Bangladesh’s priorities outlined in SDG, Delta Plan 2100, perspective plan, five-year plan and its ambition to graduate from a Least Developed Country to a middle-income country.

Yasmin Parvin Tibriji said, “The NAP should put the utmost priority on solving the water crisis and landslide in the Bandarban as well as the entire CHT region.”

Bandarban has been ranked second among the climate-vulnerable 10 hotspots in Bangladesh.

The country on the other hand is ranked seventh among the climate-vulnerable countries globally, according to a World Bank report from 2018.

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