Saturday, May 23, 2009

Garo People

Hemantha Withanage

It was my dream to see “Garo people” when I saw the book entitled “Stolen Forest” written by environmental writer Philip Gain which shown the destruction of the “Sal Forest” they live. I had a rare opportunity to meet the “Garo people” live in Modhupur, about hundred kilometers away from Dhaka. I was with the Friends of the Earth Asia Pacific regional members and the friends from the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association.

Garo people have a Tibet- Burmese origin. Some believes they have come from Garo province in Meghalaya, in India and settled in the Sal Forest in Bangladesh centuries ago. They have own culture and living style. Garo people believe them as the “children of the forests”.

The “Sal Forest” now being reduced to a small area since the forest has been encroached by various agencies and elites. They grow Banana, Pineapple and Papaya for commercial purposes and apply agro-chemicals as promoted by an ADB funded project. Unfortunately they have lost the original life style. The authorities take them to the courts if they try to engage in their original activities. Garo people now look for support to reclaim their rights over the forest. It’s clear case how local indigenous people push into a development debacle.

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