Yesterday was IPAC’s last day in the CHT as Mr. Santu Larma, Chairman of the CHT Regional Council did not allow it to continue. However, it will be in operation in other parts of Bangladesh.
IPAC (Integrated Protected Area Co-Management), a project on environment and forest conservation of the USA government jointly implemented by GoB (Govt of Bangladesh) and USAID through an international NGO, IRG, was launched at Rangamati on 18 October 2008. Mr. John F. Moriarty, the US Ambassador came to Rangamati to inaugurate it and Larma consciously avoided him. On last 19th Sept Moriarty came to meet Larma to remove the tangle which has embroiled the IPAC.
Moriarty’s mission to Larma did not yield any positive result as Larma did not agree to allow IPAC’s implementation. After the meeting Moriarty told the media that they have been perturbed and embarrassed with the row over IPAC. One of his two entourages disclosed to a quarter at Rangamati that a USAID project on rodent crisis has been withheld due to the fate of IPAC. This information gets reliability when Moriarty tells the media, "Future of USAID support to the CHT depends on the IPAC project."
Larma officially did not say anything to anybody, but, time and again exploded against the IPAC to many, including CIPD, IRG and USAID officials. It was learnt that he even asked some visiting community leaders of Pablakhali area (under Langagu Upazila) to assault (to break their legs) on the CIPD and IPAC staff when they go there for IPAC activities.
In early Oct 2008 Larma did express his sheer unhappiness to Dr. Ajharul Majumdar (USAID representative) and Mr. Bob (Chief of Party, IRG) for involving the CIPD (a CHT based local NGO) as IPAC partner. His two other objections were: 1) the project caters the Bengali Muslim settlers as the two sites (Pablakhali and Kaptai) are thickly populated by them and 2) the protected forest falls under the Hill District Councils. And, his demand were 1) to exclude the CIPD, 2) to handover the IPAC to the Rangamati Hill District Council and 3) to exclude the Bengali Muslim settlers from the benificiary list.
In last March Larma made a surprise visit to CIPD office (for IPAC) at Kaptai and gave stern warning to immediately close down the IPAC activities. Thus, the CIPD asked the IRG for termination of partnership. To resolve the crisis a USAID team led by Ram Sharma, Deputy Chief of Party of IRG called on Larma in May. In this meeting Larma basically emphasized on the CIPD issue and also raised the two other objections, and, asked to exclude the CIPD from the partnership. In return, Sharma proposed to Larma to name one or two NGOs of his choice and allow the CIPD to lead them and continue the project. Against this proposal Larma did not say anything and remained silent, it is learnt. It is important to note that on the day of inauguration of the IPAC project Dr. Majumdar received a SMS from an unknown number which asked them to exclude the CIPD from the partnership.
Larma does not like some CHT based NGOs who have acceptability among the donors and the communities. He brands them as anti-CHT Accord NGOs. He has all thorough been opposing these NGOs in the CHT in one hand and patronising some on the other. His biased NGO selection for the HYSAWA project (Danida funded project) has created a critical impasse in starting the project activities. To oppose the NGOs who are not in his love list, it has been learnt, in last part of 2009 he gave a list of about 9 such NGOs to UNDP-CHTDF with a verbal instruction for not making partnership with them. However, UNDP-CHTDF did not listen to Larma as it would have been an injustice, a source within the UNDP-CHTDF comments.
An employee who has lost his job discloses to the CHT Voice that with the closure of IPAC project 10 persons have now been jobless otherwise they would continue for next 3 years. It is a 5-year long project with a budget of about 50.41 million BD taka under joint IRG-CIPD management. They all were busy yesterday in packing up office materials and equipments. So, now we say goodbye IPAC!