Tourism Development in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: The Impact on Indigenous Peoples (IPs)

Author: Mukti Chakma

Chakma, Mukti, 2017 Tourism Development in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh: The Impact on Indigenous Peoples (IPs), Flinders University, School of History and International Relations

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Tourism is considered to be one of the important means to drive economic growth of a country. This view has not only been adopted by the global North countries but also by the countries of the global South. This is because tourism is promoted to be a panacea that defeats poverty by creating massive scale of employment and income generation opportunities for the local people. It is thought that tourism has the capacity to create a bridge between the advanced industrialized countries and the developing countries which further can work positively for the developing countries. Furthermore, foreign currency income of developing countries through tourism can bring a balance in the global wealth distribution. Tourism not only helps to accelerate Gross Domestic Product (GDP) of a country but also ensures proper utilization of natural resources which ultimately benefits rural and disadvantage areas. It is therefore natural that most of the developing countries would be interested in tourism, and determined to develop tourism within their political boundaries. Bangladesh is no exception. Like many developing countries around the globe, Bangladesh has adopted an ambitious tourism policy that is believed will help to develop the economy of the country.

However, tourism has many negative impacts that are generally omitted tourism promotions, and that failed to be considered in the Bangladesh tourism policy. This analysis of the policy shows that local inhabitants such as Indigenous Peoples (IPs) were not consulted in the policy making, and the policy does not contain any instruction as to how IPs were to be give their free consent to having tourism developments on their lands. The rosy pictures of tourism depicted in the policy thus leave questions as to how much tourism development is really going to help the IPs of Bangladesh, and whether focusing on tourism as the sole vehicle for economic progress might worsen their situation. Further analysis indicates that the tourism development practice in the Chittagong Hill Tracts does not even follow the policy instructions. The involvement of Bangladesh security forces in tourism development and operation exacerbates existing conflicts between IPs and the state as the military arbitrarily grabs IPs customary lands to build luxury resorts, causing forceful eviction of IPs who have been occupying these lands for many centuries. The economic benefits of these tourism developments are reaped by developers rather than local people.

By considering the issue of tourism development in the historical context of indigenous ownership and occupation of the CHT, which has been undermined through two different colonial periods of British and Pakistan respectively and the assimilation policy of the current Bangladesh government, this thesis argues that tourism development on IP lands is really about marginalizing and disempowering IPs, and economic growth is just a fa├žade.

Keywords: tourism, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bangladesh, indigenous peoples, economic growth, developing countries

Subject: International Relations thesis

Thesis type: Masters
Completed: 2017
School: School of History and International Relations
Supervisor: Susanne Schech