The minister stated this as the chief guest at a Brac Inn workshop
Political parties in their election manifestos should focus on and incorporate issues such as the land rights of the indigenous and marginalized people, and trans-border water sharing for a balanced development of the country, Social Welfare Minister Rashed Khan Menon said.
He says the Adivasi and marginalized groups suffer most from the impact of development works while the upper class do not.
The minister’s remarks came at a regional workshop on “Land and Water Governance in Asia: Resource Sharing and Cooperation,” organized by the Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD) at the Brac Centre Inn in Dhaka’s Mohakhali on Thursday.
Referring to the government’s plan to establish 100 specialized economic zones (SEZs) across the country by 2030, he said the massive development initiative needed a vast area of acquired land.
But the development work wase not planned taking into account the lands belonging to the indigenous groups and the extreme poor, Menon maintained.
“Though the government stands against acquiring arable land, the SEZ authorities in some cases are not paying heed to the calls in this regard, affecting the indigenous and marginalized people badly.”
They even gradually fill in the lands owned by the two underprivileged groups, he further said, warning that the country could suffer a food crisis if such development projects were built on arable lands.
Menon, also the president of Workers Party of Bangladesh, recommended a bolder public engagement and vigorous steps by non-government organizations to this end.
“In some cases, the eco-parks and even reserve forests affect the Adivasis most,” he said, adding: “Parts of reserve forests in the Chittagong Hill Tracts, where there are many cultivating rubber plants, are being leased out to several politicians and even bureaucrats.”
On the thermal power plant being built at Bagerhat’s Rampal upazila, the minister recalled: “The plant’s potential impacts were not discussed to a large extent. We repeatedly placed the matter in the House. But the outcome was the opposite.”
Menon also expressed his disappointment over the long-pending Teesta water-sharing agreement with India, saying: “We do not even have any signed deal yet over the 54 trans-border rivers.”
He, however, added that the issue could be resolved on a regional basis.
Addressing the workshop, ALRD Chairperson Khushi Kabir said the development partners must make public the deals signed for different projects.
“We hardly learn about the details of the bilateral deals, disclosure of which is a must for a better understanding of the projects undertaken,” she said.
She also reckoned that the government’s Delta Plan 2100 needed to be re-examined to ensure that it does not have any loopholes, like the ones adopted for disaster management in the past.
At the opening session of the workshop, chaired by ALRD Executive Director Shamsul Huda, where Bangladesh Environment Lawyers’ Association Chief Executive Syeda Rizawana Hasan also gave a presentation.