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Fighting climate change is fighting scarcity and extinction in Chittagong Hill Tracts

A Kapaeeng Foundation note on consultation in partnership with Indigenous Peoples organizations and communities from Asia led by the International Indigenous Peoples Movement for Self-Determination and Liberation (IPMSDL) with the support from CIVICUS, as part of preparation for the COP 28 this November in UAE:
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Climate Change is a serious issue that affects the entire species of flora and fauna in the natural world. It further impacts the livelihoods of human beings but affects the Indigenous Peoples the most who depend on nature and forests for their livelihoods. Realizing the urgent need to act against the issue, Kapaeeng Foundation organized a “Community Consultation on Indigenous Peoples Rights and Climate Change” on 26 June 2023 at Rangamati in the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT).
The consultation was organized with the support from IPMSDL and CIVICUS. Mr. Pavel Partha, Researcher, Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation was present as resource person in the consultation while Mr. Thowai Aung Marma, President of VCF Network, Mr. Shanti Bijoy Chakma, General Secretary of CHT Headmen Network, other community leaders, environment rights activists and youth leaders were present. The meeting was moderated by Ms. Ananya Chakma and chaired by Mr. Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation.
The consultation began with a brief welcome speech from Mr. Hiran Mitra Chakma, Manager of Kapaeeng Foundation. He said, “the Indigenous Peoples of Bangladesh like the Indigenous Peoples all over the world are victims to numerous human rights violations. In addition, the issue of Climate Change affects the Indigenous Peoples the most, as their livelihoods is dependent on agriculture and natural resources. Changes in seasons such as delays in rain hamper the growth and flourishing of agriculture”.
He further spoke on Climate Justice, how responsible people like large companies/ industries must compensate or take measures to reduce carbon footprint. Mr. Hiran said, this consultation will bring burning issues of Indigenous Peoples related to climate change. Kapaeeng Foundation will take necessary steps to compile the outcome of the consultation and try to raise these issues in different national and international forum, including COP 28 which will take place in UAE from November 30 to December 12 in 2023.
The Indigenous Peoples who are most vulnerable to climate change must broaden the knowledge on Climate Change. Also, networking need to be strengthened among organizations that are working in the field of climate change, and regularly participate at national and international platforms like UNFCCC – COP (The United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change – Conference of the Parties). Finally, Mr. Hiran thanked the IPMSDL and CIVICUS for supporting the event.
Following the welcoming speech, Mr. Pavel Partha, Researcher, Ecology and Biodiversity Conservation, shared his knowledge on Climate Change describing how it is measured through the records of weather and temperatures of the earth over a period of 200 years. Instead of going through such complicated procedures, climate change can also be noticed by an individual if one compares the various flora and fauna that were available about 10-20 years ago and are rarely found at present.
Decrease in availability of certain natural resources like medicinal plants have also resulted in decrease in the practice of traditional medicine. At the same time, it is seen that decrease of these plants usage results in decrease in traditional practices, decrease in indigenous knowledge and decrease of importance of the plants.
He also shared about Environmental Philosophy that is the discipline in philosophy that studies the moral relationship between human beings and nature, understands natural changes that can predict natural disasters which no machine can predict it.
He shared on Gendered Crunch Model (GCM) is used to measure as to who are vulnerable, and they are based on (1) Unsafe Condition, (2) Dynamic Pressure, and (3) Root Cause.
Finally, Mr. Partha shared his experience on participation in the COP processes and how the outcome of the consultation could be raised in the COP mechanism. He then conducted the consultation by involving the participants in the discussion.
Some of the scarcities related to climate change that the local participants shared through the open discussion were as follows:
  1. Decrease in forestry,
  2. Decrease in water bodies,
  3. Decrease in animal species,
  4. Increase in food scarcity,
  5. Decrease of water availability on hills, and
  6. Decrease of natural plant species due to deforestation and plantation of foreign species like Akasia, Rubber, etc.
Some of the extinct or vulnerable plants in indigenous languages were:
  1. Tupung – Khumi language,
  2. Cibit – Chakma & Tanchangya language,
  3. Nuyeng – Marma language,
  4. Bufang – Tripura language, and
  5. Mangku – Mro language.
Some of the extinct birds discussed were:
  1. Rong Rang,
  2. Bargee,
  3. Etdaga,
  4. Tidoi,
  5. Buduhaing, and
  6. Ketkeitte.
Some of the extinct water springs:
  1. Raikhyang jhiri (Ruma upazila in Bandarban), destroyed due to deforestation;
  2. Kuimiya Hung jhiri (Chimbuk Sadar, Bandarban), dried due to stone extraction; and
  3. Bijjyochhara jhiri (Dighinala, Khagrachhari), dried up due to plantation of teak tree and deforestation.
Some of the fish that are extinct:
  1. Narei,
  2. Seloj,
  3. Pinon fada (has prints resembling ‘pinon’),
  4. Nabalang,
  5. Baghei, and
  6. Lugudung.

Community Recommendations

  1. Stop eviction of Indigenous Peoples in the name of development;
  2. Natural forests must be protected;
  3. Afforestation and reforestation initiative should be taken in the indigenous territories involving indigenous and local communities.
  4. Natural springs, streams and water bodies must be protected;
  5. The mainstream community must also join hands with the Indigenous Peoples in preserving nature and biodiversity;
  6. Stop eviction of local Indigenous Peoples in the name of elephant sanctuary;
  7. Preservation of medicinal plants;
  8. Indigenous knowledge on protection and preservation of forest and biodiversity need to be promoted by the government.
  9. Indigenous Peoples knowledge on conservation and forest management need to be recognized by the state;
  10. Activation of customary land laws in the Chittagong Hill Tracts;
  11. Preservation of Mouza forest, village forests and Village Common Forests;
  12. Empower traditional institutions to plan in combating climate change;
  13. Climate Change affected children and women must be given priority in considerations;
  14. Amend Transit Rule of 1927;
  15. State recognition of councils and land related institutions;
  16. Indigenous issues and crises related to climate change should be reflected in the National Budget;
  17. Analyse the impact of climate change on health and education of Indigenous Peoples;
  18. Adaptation measures need to be taken based on specific region and community;
  19. Risk allowance and security of crops need to be ensured for jum dependent Indigenous Peoples;
  20. Climate fund of the national budget needs to be spent according to the demands of local institutions based on Free, Prior, and Informed Consent (FPIC);
  21. Stop brick kilns in the indigenous territories, specially close to forest area;
  22. Saw-mill situated close to natural forests needs to be closed down;
  23. All region-wise development supposed to be undertaken for the locals and by the locals.
The meeting ended with the closing remark of Mr. Pallab Chakma, Executive Director of Kapaeeng Foundation. He said, Climate Change is an urgent issue that needs to be addressed and acted upon. Expressing gratitude to the participants, he also said as a follow-up of this consultation, a National Dialogue will be organized with policy makers on the issue so that policy makers can realize the issues well and take necessary steps to protect and preserve the natural environment. He also hope that the outcomes of the community consultation can be presented at the upcoming COP28 this year.

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