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Government must protect indigenous community and their heritage

17 May 2022

Kuakata, the country's second-largest sea beach, is being turned into a tourist destination without a structured plan, kicking out the native Rakhine population in the process. Influential people are building different structures, grabbing the indigenous population's living space, temples, and even burial grounds. Rakhines have lost 70 per cent of their burial grounds and 50 per cent of temples in the past three decades. Protecting the life of the low-income indigenous community and their heritage is the responsibility of the government.
Kuakata was announced as a tourist spot in 1998. The authorities said the Prime Minister's Office (PMO) approved a master plan in 2013, but they couldn't start its implementation till now. The Housing and Public Works Ministry formed a five-member Patuakhali Development Authority in 2011. The ministry issued another gazette in 2016, forming a nine-member committee headed by the divisional commissioner of Barishal. It said this committee will approve all the establishments and land-related issues in those areas.
There are at least 123 hotels, 3,000 business establishments, and over 3,000 residences built since 2010. According to the Integrated Community Development Project (ICDP), working for land, education, and cultural rights of the Rakhines since 2007, only 22 burial grounds remained intact in 39 Rakhine villages in Patuakhali and Barguna. The rest are either grabbed or encroached. At least a dozen villages do not have any burial ground at all. Only 20 of the 39 Rakhine villages have their temples while the rest 19 villages lost theirs.
It is the government and district administration's responsibility to protect the area from encroachment and grabbing by profit mongers. Globally when protecting indigenous rights and places for tourist attractions become popular, our mindless profit mongers erect structures demolishing indigenous life and livelihood. The rights campaigners and local businesses should work in a coordinated manner thus interests of all quarters are protected and tourism thrived there sustainably.

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