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     Volume 7 Issue 42 | October 24, 2008 |

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Spellbinding Rangamati

Shantimoy Chakma

The spellbinding natural beauty of Rangamati, in spite of having plenty of features to be a prime tourist destination, is losing out due to the absence of modern tourism facilities.

In the last ten years, several small tourist spots have been set up under private initiative in the district and thus helped to increase the tourism facility in the hills to some extent. However, the facilities in Rangamati are still very inadequate compared to similar places in other Asian countries.

Rangamati Hanging Bridge
Rajban Bihar

The locations that draw most visitors are Kaptai Lake, Hanging Bridge, Peda Ting-Ting, Rajban Vihar, Chakma Palace, Suvalong Natural Waterfalls, Indigenous Museum, Tuk Tuk Eco Village, Chan Pang Restaurant, DC bungalow, monument of Birsreshtah Munsi Abdur Rouf and indigenous handicraft and textile shops.

Hanging Bridge, Tuk tuk Eco village, Peda-Ting-Ting and Suvalong waterfalls are the most attractive sights for the tourists as it takes only an hour and a half to reach these spots from the district town.

Though the number of domestic tourists has almost doubled the number of foreign tourists has declined significantly in the last couple of years after imposition of a government prohibition on the free movement of foreign tourists in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. During the last season, only four percent of the total tourists in Rangamati were foreigners. The cellular phone network should be extended up to upazila-level from the existing municipality areas for the sake of promote tourism in the hills, sources said.

Peaceful co-existence between Bengalis and other ethnic groups along with its lush green landscape, a number of hilly springs and rivulets, the extraordinary beauty of the largest serpentine artificial Kaptai Lake, scenic valleys and numerous natural waterfalls, Rangamati, with modern infrastructure has the potential to become a top tourism destination point.

Rangamati covers an area of 6116.13 square kilometers of rugged hilly terrain where 5,25,100 inhabitants from different ethnicities live -- Chakma, Marma, Tangchangya, Tripura, Pankhua, Lusai, Khiyang and Bom live together with the Bengali people.

Bangladesh Parjatan Corporation (BPC) sources said that tourists in large numbers are visiting Rangamati as the winter is heralding. It will be a huge gathering in Rangamati for the tourists in December. The area is seeing more tourists every year. But these are only the local tourists. On an average 1500 tourists visit Rangamati everyday. However, the number may rise up to five or six thousand during the winter season.

Suvalong natural waterfall

In the fiscal year 2007-2008, Rangamati Parjatan Corporation earned Tk 1.50 lakh in revenue whereas it was Tk 1 crore in the year of 2006-2007. In 2008, some 2,50,000 tourists visited Rangamati whereas the numbers was 1,80,000 in 2007, BPC sources said.

“We have given a proposal to set up an “Exclusive Tourism Zone” in Rangamati to the CHT Affairs Ministry through our ministry. CHT Development Board will finance the project. We primarily selected a place at Moghban Union, some 25 kilometres away from district town. The private entrepreneurs could also invest into this sector if this project got approval,” said Md. Zakir Hossain Sikder, manager of BPC.

However, the number of tourists has somewhat declined due to the lack of modern tourism facilities, sources said.

Tourists from home and abroad are always fascinated by the incredible eye-catching panoramic beauty of the largest artificial Kaptai Lake and its crystal clear serenity of water in the hill town of Rangamati.

Shahrier Khan, deputy editor of The Daily Star, expressing his disappointment said that the tourism facilities in Rangamati BPC are not satisfactory. Rooms of the motel are yet to be modernised as in other developed countries like Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, Bangkok etc. He also said that the toilets and beds and other facilities are very insufficient. There is also a lack of outdoor facilities like children's parks, cable cars, rafting equipment etc.

Among the three hill districts of CHT, Rangamati as a mother district has huge potential to develop tourism through infrastructure development, which is still largely untapped.

CHT is the land of 13 indigenous people who add enormous colour and diversity along with the Bengali people. The carefree lifestyle and colourful culture of indigenous people signifies their inherent love of nature and bond with the hills, forests and rivers, wherein festivity and celebrations are a part of life just the way nature is.

The government could earn crores in revenue from the tourism sector in CHT by developing its infrastructures to match international standard.

The Chittagong Hill Tract (CHT) was separated from greater Chittagong Division in 1860. Since then, Rangamati was considered as the headquarters of the three hill districts. The old town Rangamati was situated at the bottom of the Kaptai Lake before inundation into the water of Kaptai Hydro Electric Power dam in 1960. At that time, the entire part of the old town went under the dam water along with mansion of the Chakma palace at the wink of an eye and then Rangamati town situated on the peak of a hill at Resrve Bazar.

Though, after the CHT peace accord, some tourist spots sprang up under private initiatives but indeed these have very insufficient amenities for the tourists.

By escaping from the humdrum of routine life, to take a break and stay with serene nature anybody can spend and make holidays a red-letter day amid lake-cruise and sightseeing at Kaptai Lake in Rangamati. Tourists, visitors can stay both at private residential hotels and motels at reasonable prices in Rangamati.

Bangladesh Parajtan Corporation (BPC) has a motel with capacity of 62 people where a bar and an amusement park are at secluded places with modern facilities. BPC also has a hanging bridge on Kaptai Lake, which is a big attraction for the tourists.

Rangamati has a number of government and private guest houses, motels, hotels and cottages that are rented out at reasonable rates. Amongst the private hotels are Hotel Sufia, Motel Jorge, Hotel Anika, Dream Land, Lake View, Al-mova, Golden Hill, Hotel Dignity, Hotel Shapla, Green Castle, Saikat Boarding, Arju Boarding.

Md. Zubayer, a tourist from Chittagong, expressing his pleasure said, “We have come here along with family members to enjoy the natural beauty of hills and we have moved freely everywhere in Rangamati. In the past, every body was in fear of the Shantibahini (now defunct) but at present the situation is not like that and everybody can move freely without facing any problems.”

incredible beauty of Kaptai Lake

Jagat Jyoti Chakma, chairperson of Rangamati Hill District Council said that the government should handover the tourism sector under the Hill District Council (HDC) for better development. “And then we can take steps to promote tourism in the hills with our own income,” he said, “Now how could we do so with limited funds?” He also added that the local people's participation must be ensured in tourism development activity so that they are benefited from it.

Goutam Dewan, former local government council chairman and owner of the Holyday Blast & Peda-Ting-Ting, a private tourist resort in Rangamati, said there is huge prospect to develop the tourism sector in CHT but unfortunately the government is not taking any steps regarding this matter.

Creation of attractive spots, infrastructural facility and development of road communication is very much a necessity to increase amenities, he said. He also said that the strict embargo on free movement of the foreign tourists is hampering tourism sector in CHT and declining the number of foreign tourists.

Goutam said that to ensure security to the foreign tourists, special police forces should have to be introduced only for the CHT region and these police must be trained up on how to deal with foreigners.

Saiful Islam, owner of Sufia Hotel complained that nobody is coming forward either from the government or the private side to develop the tourism sector here. Saiful lamented saying that coming of foreign tourists have drastically reduced after kidnapping of three foreign engineers from Kalapahar areas of Naniachar upazila in Rangamati in 2001.

“We have given a proposal to set up an 'Exclusive Tourism Zone' in Rangamati to the CHT Affairs Ministry through our ministry. CHT Development Board will finance the project. We primarily selected a place at Moghban Union, some 25 kilometres away from the district town. The private entrepreneurs could also invest in this sector if this project got approval,” said Md. Zakir Hossain Sikder.

I am trying to increase tourism facility with low investment. As part of this we have already constructed of a six-bed Honeymoon Cottage, water scooter and construction of an rcc stairs, Zakir added.

Md. Aminur Rahman, a tourist who from Mohakhali in Dhaka, said that they were very pleased with the panoramic beauty of the different tourist spots. “We haven't faced any problem when we took a cruise across the Kaptai Lake,” he added.

Contacted, Shahed Ferdous, assistant police super (headquarter) said they usually take necessary measures when tourists, especially foreigners, ask us for security.

How to reach Rangamati: Any body can directly go to Rangamati from Dhaka by luxurious chair coaches of Shayamoli Paribahan (AC), S Alam, Saudia, Unique Paribahan, BRTC and Dolphin. Coach fare would be between Tk 400 to 600. Moreover, local non-stop bus service is available from Chittagong for those who wish to go to Rangamati via Chittagong. Moreover, tourists can go by aircraft from Dhaka via Chittagong.

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