By Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura & Golam Rasul :: To strengthen the International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) engagement in Bangladesh, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs (MOCHTA) and ICIMOD are jointly organising the Bangladesh-ICIMOD Partnership Day in Dhaka on 24 January. The event will be attended by ICIMOD’s key partners and stakeholders in Bangladesh including MOCHTA, government agencies, research organisations, academia, NGOs, and the private sector.
Bangladesh is one of the founding members of ICIMOD, a regional intergovernmental organisation established in 1983 by the eight countries of the Hindu Kush Himalayas –Afghanistan, Bangladesh, Bhutan, China, India, Myanmar, Nepal, and Pakistan. Its dual mandate is to improve the environment of the hills and mountains and the lives of mountain people in the region, as well as in the river basins downstream. With its headquarters in Kathmandu, Nepal, ICIMOD serves the region by generating mountain specific knowledge, sharing information, and fostering regional cooperation to find innovative solutions to the region’s problems.
Bangladesh has supported and participated in ICIMOD’s activities since its inception. The partnership between Bangladesh and ICIMOD has grown, particularly since the establishment of the Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs (MOCHTA) in 1998, which is the focal Ministry for ICIMOD in Bangladesh. MOCHTA represents the Government of Bangladesh on ICIMOD’s Board of Governors, the Centre’s highest policy making body.
The Bangladesh-ICIMOD collaboration covers a range of activities from knowledge sharing to income generation, livelihood improvement including shifting cultivation, watershed management, disaster risk reduction, adaptation to climate change, capacity building and skills development in many sectors including space applications and hydro-meteorological monitoring, and regional cooperation.
ICIMOD’s engagement in Bangladesh is both strategic and programmatic. At the strategic level, ICIMOD engages with key organisations on strategic issues of importance to Bangladesh. At the programmatic level, it brings regional knowledge and expertise to bear on hill and mountain issues in Bangladesh to find solutions to problems in collaboration with national partners.
One of ICIMOD’s successfulstrategic engagements with MOCHTA has been the recent development of ‘A Strategic Framework for Sustainable Development in the Chittagong Hill Tracts of Bangladesh’. This framework recognises the geographic, cultural, and social specificities of the Chittagong Hill Tracts and outlines its unique potential. ICIMOD worked with the Planning Commission to incorporate a hill perspective in Bangladesh’s 7th Five Year Plan. The framework formed the basis for multi-stakeholder consultations and the development of recommendations for the 7th Five Year Plan, most of which have now been incorporated in the Plan.
ICIMOD’s supports the Government of Bangladesh to improve flood and water management as most of Bangladesh is located within the floodplains of three rivers: the Ganges, Brahmaputra and Meghna, and their tributaries. Bangladesh is prone to floods and other water-related disasters making real-time data and information from upstream countries critical in developing flood forecasting and early warning systems, and for water resource management. ICIMOD and its partners in Bangladesh are working to establish a regional flood information system to facilitate the timely exchange of flood data and information which should strengthen regional cooperation with regard to floods and other natural disasters. ICIMOD is also looking for opportunities to facilitate transboundary cooperation between Bangladesh and India and Bangladesh and Myanmar using the landscape approach to ecosystem management.
ICIMOD collaborates with a number agencies to generate income and promote livelihoods options, manage watersheds, facilitate flood preparation and disaster risk reduction, and to protect the environment. Efforts focus on the management of watersheds, conservation of soil and water, promotion of agriculturaltechnologies in shifting cultivation areas, and building capacities on GIS and remote sensing. As the majority of people in the Chittagong Hill Tracts are farmers and have little cash income, efforts are being made to promote alternative livelihood options, both farm and non-farm based, through value chain development, increased market access, and tourism development. Mushrooms, high-value medicinal plants, and beekeeping are a few of the value chains being promoted.
The Bangladesh-ICIMOD Partnership Day is a further step forward in the strategic partnership between Bangladesh and ICIMOD. It is hoped that it will help identify effective strategies for translating vision into action for the sustainable development of the CHT.
Naba Bikram Kishore Tripura, ndc, is Secretary, Ministry of Chittagong Hill Tracts Affairs and Chair, Board of Governors, ICIMOD
Golam Rasul is a Senior Economist and Theme Leader Livelihood at ICIMOD and focal point of ICIMOD for Bangladesh