Rubber and Its Impacts on Local People and Environment in Bandarban

La Jhan Aung, 55, who lived in a village called Badurjhiri with his wife and four sons. He was an average Chak. But one event changed his life completely. On March 19, 2013, some group of men forced them out of their home town violently. The robber broke their home and took what little property they had. Not being able to resist they had to seek refuge at a union called Baishary. Now sadly after moving to Baishary, he is now a simple day-labor. He only earns 300 taka per day which is not enough for his family to run.

Another one whose name is Aung Sai Heo (42), he also used to live in Badurjhiri village with his wife and six sons. He cultivated Jhum and Turmeric. But after the big robbery, he had to leave the village as well. He moved to Chak para in Baishary Union. After moving here he faced a lot of problem because he could not find a job. This is the season to cultivate Turmeric. But he cannot cultivate it in proper time. The only reason is safety. If he goes back to the village, he could be killed by the robbers. There are a lot of people who moved from that village by force like the two people mentioned above.

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Why are these people forced to move? The answer is people’s desire to cultivate rubber. Rubber cultivation is a farm or large piece of land where rubber plants are grown. It is a highly land-intensive investment so that in Bangladesh which has serious land limitations, only those pieces of land which is not used for production of food can be made available for rubber cultivation. Commercial cultivation of rubber in Bangladesh still remains as an unresolved issue, because of decrease in productive land and growing population pressure and several farmers who want to take back part of the land for crop production.

To gain land for cultivate the rubber some villages had been completely destroyed. So the people basically Chak, were forced to moved to other places. One of the villages called Badhujhiri is currently under thread. Probably it is going to be taken for rubber cultivation in the future. There were few villages besides these one which were also taken few years back. All the Chak of those villages were moved other places. These people are having a very hard time adjusting to their new a miserable life. Before they have land and property but now they have nothing.

Cause they left everything back at their village. They used to live in a natural life. That means they produced everything by themselves. They cannot e easily adjust to their new life because it has many hardships. Above all of these are the impacts of the local people. According to the local villagers, they said the robbers are “Vumi Heen Gosti”. Some of them are Bengalis, Mog and Marma. These robberies are always planned and unexpected. They attack the innocent villagers with surprise. They use arms and lethal weapons to scare the Chaks.

The Chaks being helpless cannot defend themselves or their family. Nothing but to do except leave town they are now deprived of what was rightfully theirs. For the rubber cultivation not only the local people are affected but also the environment. For the cultivation of rubber, the jungles are being reduced. In order to plant the rubber tree they must first remove the trees that are currently there, thus reducing the area of the jungle. So without trees the hills there are losing strength. There is frequent hill collapsing causing mass devastation to the environment.

Before the plant of the rubber tree, they cut the lower cut of the hill. The cultivator burn down the ground because to remove the trees stump and dead leaves. For that, the soil is affected negatively. So soil is losing its fertility. Both the hill collapsing and deforestation causes are decreased in biodiversity, so various types of animal spices are killed. Some of animal are coming to local places. For example, elephants are coming to the local place and start destroying and killing people. These sudden attacks by the elephant are occurring because their habitats are being destroyed.

On the other hand, forest burning is causing the air pollution. The Chaks, who used to live in the hillside, they collected various types of natural vegetables from the hill which is grown naturally. But now destroying the forest and also burning down prevents them from collecting the vegetables. The Chaks, who are used to take their drinking water from the ‘Jhiri’. But the environmental degradation prevents them from collecting drinking water from ‘The Jhiri’ because the water of ‘The Jhiri’ is polluted. There are eleven tribal groups living in the Chittagong hill tracks.

Out of these groups the Chaks are the 8th largest. And according to society for environment and human development census reports that the total number of Bandarban districts contains at least 2,772 Chaks. All population is very small. All of these groups are used to live naturally and are very dependent of jhum cultivation. But during the recent decade or so their lives are changed for the worse because of the start of rubber and tobacco production. The people in the city of Bangladesh started moving in and investing in rubber cultivation for own gain.

But they don’t think about the environment and the local people whose lives depend on the land. These tribal groups have their own culture. For the greediness of the city people to increase their wealth the Chaks and other local people are forced to come to the cities instead and thus losing their culture. If this continues the casualties could be very devastating. Hundreds and thousands of lives could be destroyed. The environment might start decaying to a point where it cannot recover. And not only this generation will suffer but also the next generation as well.

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