Chittagong Hill Tracts finally going to be on railway map

2021-10-10, 12:13pm Transportation

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Rangamati. Creative Commons.

Chattogram, Oct 10 – The government has taken a project to bring three districts of the Chattogram Hill Tracts (CHT) -- Rangamati, Khagrachhari and Bandarban -- under the railway network for making life in the remote hilly region easier.

Initially, officials said, Rangamati will be connected with the railway network and Bangladesh Railway has already started work on setting up a 42-km rail track in the district which is expected to end by 2026.

General Manager (Eastern Zone) of Bangladesh Railway Md Jahangir Hossain said Bangladesh Railway will construct the 42-km rail link from Raozan upazila to Rangunia via Kaptai involving Tk 8.926 crore.

He said the Economic Relations Division (ERD) has contacted the World Bank, the Asian Development Bank (ADB) and Japan International Cooperation Agency (Jaica) seeking a loan amounting to Tk 7,141 crore for the much-needed project.

Recently, Chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Railways Ministry and Chattogram-6 constituency MP ABM Fazle Karim Chowdhury said Rangamati will be brought under the country’s railway network.

“The government has taken the project to ease transportation of goods produced in Rangamati to Chattogram city and other parts of the country, and ensure train services for tourists,” he said while speaking at a programme at Kumira in Sitakunda upazila.

The government also has a plan to connect Khagrachchari and Bandarban districts with the country’s railway network, he said.

“The government has planned to establish 55 new railway stations across the country and 26 of these will be set up in the eastern region. Besides, train service will be launched from Nazirhat to Ramgarh Land port,” he added.

Railways Minister Md Nurul Islam Sujon at a programme in Dhaka recently said the government has taken a project titled “Janalihat-Cuet-Kaptai Dual gauge Rail Tracks” and a preliminary development project proforma/proposal (PDPP) has been prepared.

The feasibility study of the project was done in 2018-2019 and a design prepared for the double gauge rail tracks, he said.

There will be nine railway stations as Rangamati will be connected with the railway network under a 30-year master plan of Bangladesh Railway (2016-45), the minister added.

“The Railways Ministry will implement the project in two phases -- the authorities concerned will construct a 14.31 kms rail track stretching from Janalihat to Raozan in the first phase involving Tk 4,142 crore.”

Of the amount, he said, an amount of Tk 828 crore will come from the national exchequer while Tk 3,313 crore as project assistance from foreign sources, he said.

In the second phase, the minister said, the railway authorities will establish the remaining 27.86 kms of tracks from Cuet to Kaptai involving Tk 4,784 crore.

The work for the acquisition of 640 acres of land is underway and three railway bridges, 25 culverts and nine stations will be constructed under the project, said a senior official at the Bangladesh Railway wishing not to be named.

Once implemented, the project is expected to create better economic opportunities for the people of hilly areas as it will help them to transport their commodities in an easier way.

CHT’s potential

The country’s Chittagong Hill Tracts has huge potential for development, especially its tourism sector and production of a number of high-value agricultural products like fruits and off-season vegetables and seeds.

With its majestic beauty, the region can attract millions of tourists from around the world, and it could be promoted as a world-class tourism site too, according the report prepared by Kathmandu-based International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD), a regional intergovernmental knowledge sharing centre serving eight countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayas.

The CHT is an ethnically, culturally and topographically diverse region in the country with a population of about 1.6 million, including 12 small ethnic communities with distinct tribal cultures and traditions.

The report, ‘A Strategic Framework for Sustainable Development in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh’ finds that the region is suitable for the production of a number of high-value agricultural products, including various fruits, off-season vegetables and seeds.

Dr Golam Rasul, Livelihoods Theme Leader at ICIMOD and author of the report, said, “With proper development of a market infrastructure, farmers could earn better prices for their produce.” - UNB