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 Bangladesh: Rubber Farming on Amid a Volley of Questions

At least 20,000 acres of land is being used for rubber cultivation in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT). Chittagong Hill Tracts Development Board (CHTDB) is cultivating rubber on some 15,000 acres of land under rubber cultivation project while cultivation is going on some 5000 acres of land under private initiative, sources said.

CHTDB has about 26 lakh rubber plants on 13,200 acres of land (200 plants on each acre) while some 5 lakh more plants are growing on about 5,000 acres of land under privet ownership. Asian Development Bank (ADB) provided Tk 52.5 crore in two instalments for the rubber cultivation project from 1979 to 1995 and Tk 13.5 crore came from public exchequer after signing of the CHT peace accord in 1997.

Some 3,300 stakeholders of the project alleged that they are not getting 60 percent of total income as per the agreement they signed with the CHTDB. They alleged the authority is depriving them of their due share producing false data of production and income. CHTDB officials said many farmers have become solvent through rubber cultivation while farmers and agriculturists term it non-profitable and hazardous to health.

About 50,000 people, who have been living in rubber garden areas or are engaged in rubber production, are suffering from different diseases, sources said. Binoy Bhusan Chakma, a farmer of Bhaibonchhara in Sadar upazila of Khagrachhari, said most of the farmers are sufferings from different diseases as they are not aware of the bad effects of rubber cultivation. Amiya Kanti Roaza, Assistant General Manager of the rubber cultivation project, told this correspondent that there is no bad effect of rubber cultivation. If it is harmful to human health, government would never initiate such a project, he added. Khagrachhari District Horticulture Officer Mohammad Mizanur Rahman said rubber garden workers suffer from various skin diseases. General Manager of Rubber Project Mohammad Ali Hydar said many farmers have been benefited through rubber cultivation on fallow land.