ASCON NADI Conversations-: Chittagong Through the Ages

Date:   Sat Apr 24, 2021 - Sat Apr 24, 2021


 Concept Note for the Chittagong NADI Conversation

Chittagong is the second-largest city in Bangladesh and one of the oldest seaports in the world. It has had a chequered and interesting past and has been subjected to many invasions. As a gateway of trade to South Asia. An ancient port city, with a recorded history dating back to the 4th century BC, it was mentioned in Ptolemy's world map in the 2nd century as one of the most impressive ports in the East. 

Traditionally centered on its seaport the region was home to the ancient independent Buddhist kingdoms of Samatata and Harikela and later fell under the rule of the Gupta Empire, the Pala Empire, and the Arakanese kingdom of Waithali till the 7th century. The Chandra dynasty once dominated the area and was followed by the Varman dynasty and Deva dynasty. Arab Muslims traded and used the port for trading purposes from as early as the 9th century. 

Chittagong Port, the principal seaport of Bangladesh, is situated in the estuary of the Karnaphuli River, which originates in the hills north-east of the Chittagong hill tracts and flows into the Bay of Bengal. The main significance of this port lies in the fact that it provides a deep-water anchorage a few miles inland from the sea 

Karnaphuli River is the largest and most important river in Chittagong and the Chittagong Hill Tracts. It is a wide river in the south-eastern part of Bangladesh. Originating from the Saithah village of Mamit district in Mizoram, India, it flows southwest through Chittagong Hill Tracts and Chittagong into the Bay of Bengal. The river plays a major role in the Ganga Brahmaputra Meghna Basin and also in the agricultural practices in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. 

The modern Chittagong port was organized in 1887 under the Port Commissioners Act in the British Indian Empire. The port began formal operations under a commissioner in 1888. Its busiest trade links were with British Burma, including the ports of Akyab and Rangoon; and other Bengali ports, including Calcutta, Dhaka, and Narayanganj 

A substantial share of Bangladesh's national GDP is attributed to Chittagong. The city approximately contributes around 12% of the nation's economy. Chittagong generates 40% of Bangladesh's industrial output, 80% of its international trade, and 50% of its governmental revenue

The Chittagong Hill Tracts is a group of districts within the Chittagong Division in South-eastern Bangladesh, bordering India and Myanmar (Burma). Topographically, the Hill Tracts are the only extensively hilly area in Bangladesh. It was historically settled by many tribal refugees from Burma Arakan in the 16th century and now it is settled by the indigenous Jumma people. Today, it is one of the most heavily militarized regions of the world, and one of the least developed parts of Bangladesh 

Like other mountainous areas in South and Southeast Asia, the Chittagong Hill Tracts are undergoing deforestation and land degradation arising from environmentally unsuitable activities such as tobacco cultivation in sloping land, shifting cultivation, and logging. Shifting cultivation, also known as slash-and-burn agriculture embraces a large variety of primitive forms of agriculture. The present shifting cultivation system with short fallow in the Chittagong Hill Tracts has accelerated erosion, land degradation, deforestation, and impoverishment of tribal people in CHT. If the present state of degradation is continued, most of the areas under shifting cultivation will be severely degraded and the future generations will face more difficulties to eke out their livelihoods on further degraded land. 

This conversation aims to learn and understand from our experts about the contributing factors that have been responsible for the growth of Chittagong from ancient times till today. The questions that we would like to ask through this session are:

1. To discuss the influence of history in shaping the city as we know it today.

2. The influence of the Port of Chittagong in the North East of India and the countries in the Bay of Bengal.

3. Chittagong’s role in the Ganga- Brahmaputra Meghna Basin and its role in the current Indo-Pacific Situation.

Conversation Agenda

3:00-3:05 PM: Introductory Address 

3:05-3:10PM: Opening note by Sabyasachi Dutta, Executive Director Asian Confluence

3:10-3:35 PM: Professor Suchandra Ghosh Department of History University of Hyderabad 

3:35-4:00 PM: Mrs Nilova Roy Chaudhury, Senior Journalist and Editor, Society for Policy Studies 

4:00- 4:15 PM: Question-Answer and Discussion 

Video Link: