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Last Updated: Friday, 18 March 2005, 16:55 GMT
Bangladesh turns to donkey power
By Waliur Rahman
BBC News, Dhaka

Bangladesh is adopting an unusual solution to its infrastructure problems by importing donkeys for the first time, officials say.

Twenty donkeys are being brought in from India and sent to the Chittagong Hill Tracts to transport goods.

It is believed that Bangladesh has almost no donkeys of its own and they will be useful in the hilly region.

A government official said the terrain meant road construction was "very expensive compared to other regions".

Insurgency

Deputy minister for the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Mani Swapon Dewan, said the use of donkeys for transportation was a logical option.

"The reality is that the Chittagong Hill Tracts are a backward region, and forests and hilly terrain have made many places inaccessible for the modern mode of transports," he told the BBC.

"The British army used donkeys in the region before they left the area in 1947
Mani Swapon Dewan,
deputy minister

Donkeys and mules, he says, are also used in similar terrain in Nepal and Bhutan.

In terms of road coverage, the three hill districts in the region are lagging far behind of the rest of the country.

The region also remains underdeveloped because of a two-decade tribal insurgency that ended with a peace deal in 1997.

Donor agencies like the UN Development Programme and the Asian Development Bank have recently decided to channel funds to develop infrastructure in the region.

But Mr Dewan said it would be very difficult to construct roads everywhere in the region due to huge costs.

He said that 20 donkeys and mules would be brought in from India in the first phase on an experimental basis and more would be imported if the animals were found to be suitable.

The minister was hopeful the donkeys would find the weather in the Chittagong Hill Tracts suitable.


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