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State Policies, Praxies and Land-use in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh

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Type: Working Paper
Author: Rasul, Golam; Thapa, Gopal B.
Date: 2005
Agency: International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED), London
URI: http://hdl.handle.net/10535/6189
Sector: Land Tenure & Use
Region: Middle East & South Asia
Subject(s): land tenure and use
land degradation
Abstract: "Degradation of land and forest owing to unsustainable land-use practices, locally known as jhum, an extensive land-use characterized by frequent shifting of plot, has become a serious concern in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) of Bangladesh. Polices and programs aiming at promoting alternative land use practices have been failed largely to achieve the desired goal. Conventionally, indigenous people are blamed as being conservative and not adopting alternative land use systems overlooking the constraints in adopting alternative land use practices. This paper questioned the conventional explanation and offers an alternative explanation by examining the state policies and associated effect on land-use in CHT over two centuries. It is revealed that the process of degradation has started during the British colonial period with the nationalization of land and forest and large scale commercial logging. It was accelerated by the establishment of reserve forest which abolished tribal people’s customary rights and forced them to reduce the fallow period. The construction of a hydroelectric dam and encouragement of migration of lowland people into CHT had created further pressure on land and forced farmers to bring more marginal lands under arable cultivation for growing food or annual cash crops and increase the cultivation frequency. Horticulture, agro-forestry, and tree farming are also practiced in certain areas where land title and necessary support services were provided. It is concluded that the persistence of extensive land use practices is not because of indigenous people’s adherence to traditional land use practices but because of failures of policies to create conducive environment. Policies conducive to promote economically and environmentally viable land use practices are outlined."

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