Food security, public health and the environment are under threat in parts of Bangladesh because of a rise in tobacco cultivation, according to a story in The Financial Express.
Khiating Soye, chairman of Rajbila’s Union Parishad (local council) at Sadar Upazila, Bandarban district, is said to have alleged that tobacco companies have been offering cash incentives to local farmers in an attempt to get them to grow tobacco.
The chairman was speaking at Jamchhari village with 22 visiting journalists, who were said to have found ‘massive tobacco farming’ at Jamchhari, Ruma, Lama, Alikadam, Thanchi, Nikhyangchhari, Rowangchhari and Sadar Upazila. Tobacco is said to be produced, also, at Kaptai, Barkal, Rajasthali, Baghaichhari, Jurachhari, Longudu and Bilaichhari in the Rangamati district, and at Dighinala, Mainee valley, Panchhari and Ramgarh in the Khagrachhari district.
Soye said that according to environmentalists at least 60,000 to 70,000 tonnes of firewood were being burnt in 2,000 tobacco processing barns every year, causing the depletion of forests and threatening the environment and ecology of the hills.
Meanwhile, Nazrul Islam Titu, a correspondent for an electronic media organisation, reported that most of the farmers in the hilly districts were losing interest in cultivating indigenous crops such as paddy, banana, maize, sesame, cotton, potato and pumpkin as they became defaulters of the loans provided by the tobacco companies.