USAID and UNDP unveil second phase of CHT conservation project

USAID and UNDP announced the unveiling of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Watershed Co-Management Activity - Phase II (CHTWCA II) dedicated to preserving the biodiversity and natural resources of the Chittagong Hill Tracts on 3 June 2024.Courtesy

Today, Monday USAID and UNDP announced the unveiling of the Chittagong Hill Tracts Watershed Co-Management Activity - Phase II (CHTWCA II) dedicated to preserving the biodiversity and natural resources of the Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), reported a press release.

Implemented by UNDP in partnership with the Government of Bangladesh, local government, and CHT communities, the new project builds on USAID’s decade-long conservation efforts and takes a collaborative approach to protecting forests, rivers, wetlands and water bodies while strengthening resilience to climate impacts throughout the region.

The unveiling of the second phase of this project comes ahead of World Environment Day 2024, which this year focuses on land restoration, desertification and drought resilience. The CHT region, constituting 10 per cent of Bangladesh's land area, is rich in cultural and ecological diversity, housing 43 per cent of the nation's forest land and vital rivers.

The unveiling highlighted the collaboration between USAID, UNDP, the ministry of CHT affairs, the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, hill district councils, the Bangladesh forest department, as well as local communities who are working together to safeguard the region’s unique environment and foster sustainable development.

“The achievements of previous phases have laid a strong foundation for our future work, with improvements in water access, agricultural practices, and social cohesion, and successes in watershed conservation and wildlife trafficking prevention,” said senior secretary Md Mashiur Rahman, from the ministry of CHT affairs.

“As we launch Phase II, we aim to scale up our efforts, focusing on enhancing water access for health and agriculture, and prioritising sustainable watershed conservation to safeguard the future for generations to come," he added.

“At USAID, one of our most pressing priorities is mitigating the impacts of climate change, protecting our environment and ensuring long-term sustainable impact. This is an immense challenge that requires collaboration among governments, businesses, civil society, communities and everyday people– an approach that has been very effective in the CHT.

We hope this new project will successfully build on our accomplishments in protecting the region while enabling its people to build brighter, more resilient and prosperous futures,” said Anjali Kaur, deputy assistant administrator at the Asia Bureau of USAID. 

"We are committed to working with our partners to advance the goals of the second phase of this activity, ensuring that conservation efforts continue to be inclusive, community-driven, and sustainable," said Reed Aeschliman, USAID mission director for Bangladesh. "Renewing our efforts after a decade of dedicated work is vital to addressing ongoing environmental challenges in the CHT region," he added.

UNDP resident representative Stefan Liller noted, “Building on past successes, the Watershed Co-Management Activity II programme aims to enhance our work around watershed management, forest and biodiversity conservation, improving community water access, reducing disaster risks, and promoting social cohesion and gender equality through a community-driven approach that has already shown great promise in improving lives, livelihoods, and local ecosystems.”

Chief conservator of forests Amir Hossain Chowdhury of the Bangladesh forest department emphasised the importance of collaboration: “We must work together to protect our forests and wildlife for future generations.”

CHTWCA II aims to address climate change, illegal logging, and wildlife crimes while promoting climate-adaptive livelihood measures. The initiative focuses on reducing disaster risks, improving access to water and sanitation in remote areas, and promoting equity among stakeholders in forest and wetland management.

Additional secretary at the ministry of environment, forest and climate change Fahmida Khanom, Raja Debashish Roy, director of economic growth at USAID Bangladesh Muhammad Khan, additional secretary (development), MoCHTA Prodip Kumar Mahottam, and deputy resident representative at UNDP Bangladesh Sonali Dayaratne also spoke event, among others.

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