Indigenous Land Rights Ignored in Bangladesh
The systematic displacement of indigenous people in Bangladesh due to lack of legal recognition of their land rights will lead to further strife in the coming decade:
"Indigenous tribal groups in Bangladesh are slowly being displaced from their traditional land, which will not only lead to rise in poverty among the ethnic tribal groups but could result in the rise of ethnic conflicts in the coming years.
"At present, approximately 2 million indigenous tribal people occupy the forest and rural areas of Chittagong Hills, Mymensingh, Sylhet and Rajshahi districts in Bangladesh. A large percentage of tribal people practice agriculture and are highly dependent on forest- based income. Over the years, land grabbing and the absence of property rights have forced them to work as day labourers in agricultural farms. Moreover, rapid deforestation and biodiversity changes have also forced indigenous tribal people to migrate to urban centres. For instance, over the last 40 years more than 80% of the Madhupur Sal forests, primarily occupied by the Garo tribe, have been cleared due to introduction of mono-cultivation and large scale commercial cropping. In addition, the Madhupur Tract has been declared as Government Forest Land. Hence, the Garos, who have traditionally used the forest resources, have no legal access to them at present. This has led to their displacement and has forced them to migrate to Dhaka in search of employment opportunities.
"This situation will continue to persist among tribal groups as they do not possess land titles and have limited access to legal redress. In the future, this will make them susceptible to land grabbing as the ethnic majority will continue to occupy the areas traditionally inhabited by the tribal groups. Also, the current deforestation pattern will continue as development takes place, leading to a drop in livelihood opportunities, thereby pushing them further into poverty in the future."
Without land tenure guidelines that apply comprehensively to the practitioners of shifting cultivation, such as is the case with many indigenous groups the world over, there will never be any way to preserve that group's well being in the face of land appropriation by modern agriculturalists. Shifting cultivation, as practiced by forest-dwelling "tribal" (the term used presently in India) peoples, is not a practice that depends on unilateral enforcement of one person's land rights against another, as frequently, users will not come back to a plot for a few years at a time. This practice is fading from view as indigenous people in Bangladesh and elsewhere are not able to continue with reduced land access and often are migrating to cities.
Sources:Strategic Foresight Group, Asian Horizons, Issue No: 8, October 2010. Page 6.
‘Indigenous people press for rights’. The Daily Star. 10 August 2010.
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