Three Buddhist Pagodas in Bangladesh face existential risks

By Nyo ( Cox’sbazar)

Yangon ( Narinjara), 12 February 2016

Pagoda Photo

At least three ancient Buddhist Pagodas in Teknaf locality of  south-eastern Bangladesh  face existential risks because of extensive hill-cutting activities at the bases.

Around three hundred years old these Pagodas may fall down any moment as the cutting of hill continue at Nilla area of Teknaf. Locally known as Tha To Pha Cei/Zedi among the Buddhist community, these Pagodas are on the top of the hill, reported Bangladesh’s leading Bengali newspaper Pratham Alo.

The cutting of hill was ordered by the authority for constructing a multi-floors building for Nilla High School few weeks back. Earth filling of the school-ground was followed soon with the sands from the hill.

The school authority though admitted that the hill-cutting activities went on, but it claimed that a small volume of sands was only shifted from the hill and hence ‘it would not affect the Pagodas’.

Maung Tha Lu, a local Buddhist community leader, informed that the Pagodas are on the hill-top with elevations ranging from 25 to 35 feet.

“Many tourists from different parts of the globe come here regularly. The worshipers normally assemble here every year on the eve of Baisakhi festival (Thungran). Ritual are performed with candle-lights.

It will be unfortunate if the hill-cutting activities put the ancient Pagodas in trouble,” said Maung Tha Lu.

Local residences namely Anowar Hossain, Robiul Alam and Ayesha Begum informed that not only the Pagodas, but also some dwelling houses and gardens were facing problems.

However Sirajul Islam Sikdar, the chief of school managing committee and also a leader of ruling Bangladesh Awami League denied the apprehension and commented that the hill-cutting would not affect the Pagodas.

The in-charge school head-master Abdus Salam also echoed the same point. He admitted that a five-storied building was coming up at the location for the growing need of more students.

The higher education officer based at Cox’sBazar locality Mohammad Zashim Uddin assured that he would speak to the school authority over the matter. A government land office worker from the locality, Tahshilder Md. Aktarul Islam pointed out that the district magistrates in Bangladesh enjoy the official power to deal with such issues.

Sardar Shariful Islam, the assistant director of environment department in Cox’sBazar district revealed that he would take legal actions in need. He however admitted that he had no prior knowledge about the development.

Pagoda & temples managing committee has urged the district authority to stop the hill-cutting exercises. The Upazila committee leader Kyaw Thein Zaw Chowdhury also appealed to the Dhaka based government to preserve such ancient relics across the Muslim dominated country with smart actions.