Tobacco cultivation eating up cropland in CHT
A vast area of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) has come under tobacco farming through the national and the multi-nationals cigarette producers. They are involving the poor farmers in the remote villages of the south-eastern part of the country in the tobacco cultivation.
Field level officials of national and multi-national cigarette manufacturing companies are active at the areas with attractive packages for the farmers, said Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) of Baghaichhari in Rangamati Mofidul Alam.
“They (companies) allure the farmers with seeds, fertilizer, interest free credits and training to go for tobacco cultivators in the hard-to-reach areas of the hilly terrain,” said Boro Hrishi Chakma, chairman of Baghaichhari upazila.
Besides the motivation, the companies also purchase tobacco from ground where the hilly people cannot ferry any of their yields due to communication hazards.
The farmers are seemed interested in tobacco production instead of the pro-environmental fruits, vegetables, sugarcane, paddy or other crops, said Razib Tripura, a headman of Baghaichhari upazila.
Crops land in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are on rapid decline as tobacco cultivation has been taking place with aggrandizing trend threatening public health, ecology, biodiversity and natural forests, said Divisional Forest Officer of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) North Forest Division S M Kauser.
Cultivation of detrimental tobacco is on rise at paddy, vegetable and other crop land with an alarming trend that has been infecting people of all ages with asthma and somewhere killing disease, cancer, said chairman of Kutukchhari UP Mosharraf Hussein. People in the area will fall victims of the killer diseases because of the tobacco cultivation in the forests adjacent to dwellings as well as educational institutions in the CHT, said chairman of Rangamati Hill District Council Brisho Ketu Chakma.
Civil surgeon-in-charge of the district Dr. Ruhi Banani urged the authorities concerned to address the tobacco plantation issue properly without any delay.
Tobacco is being cultivated at different places under Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarbun in places of pro-people crops including vegetable, said Firoza Begum Chinu, the lone lady lawmaker in the CHT.
She urged the authorities concerned to exercise the anti-tobacco rules properly to address the tobacco cultivation in the hills to protect the people living here.
Altabur Rahman, Deputy Director of Rangamati Directorate of Agriculture Extension (DAE) said that the coverage of tobacco cultivation has been declining gradually, in comparison to previous years due to continued awareness building campaign, DAE launched.