Court orders favouring Bhola forest

The Daily Star June 21, 2012

The Supreme Court yesterday ordered to stop construction of roads and felling of trees in the reserve forest in Char Kukrimukri of Bhola in order to protect environment and ecology of the coastal belt.

Chamber Judge of the Appellate Division Justice Syed Mahmud Hossain imposed the ban following a petition by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) yesterday.

The local government authorities have taken initiatives to chop down around 15,000 trees for constructing a road in the forest defying an earlier order by the apex court, according to the petition.

Following a petition by Bela based on a report published in The Daily Star, the chamber judge of the Appellate Division on June 14 last year stayed a High Court verdict that on June 8 the same year had permitted the government to construct the road by cutting trees, but under certain conditions.

This paper on June 12 last year reported that Bhola-4 (Char Fassion) lawmaker Abdullah Al Islam and his supporters backed chopping down of the mangrove forest to build a 2.5km road without any environmental clearance from the forest department as required by law.

Appearing for Bela, advocate Iqbal Kabir Lytton told the court yesterday that the local administration of Bhola has started felling trees flouting the previous court order.

He added the government had no legal authority to chop down trees of the reserve forest area for constructing roads.

Meanwhile, our Patuakhali correspondent reports the construction of a road through the mangrove forest in Char Kukrimukri continued in full swing yesterday.

The local union parishad has deployed 400 day labourers to build the five kilometre long and 12 feet wide road under Char Fassion upazila in Bhola district.

The road will connect the forest tower of Char Kukrimukri with the bank of Kachopia river so that a ferry service can be established for the locals to travel to Bhola and the rest of the country.

Although the road is 12 feet wide on paper, some officials of the UP have cleared up to 60 feet over a stretch of five kilometers through the forest, forest officials alleged.

They have already felled over 15,000 mature trees and the same fate is awaiting another 10,000 trees.

Forest officials say they have never before seen “such a massacre” of the mangrove forest.

Since 1977 the forest department has been planting thousands of trees in the islands of Bhola. These islands by the Bay of Bengal are heavily forested with trees from the Sundarbans and they shield the mainland from natural disasters. Most of these islands have been declared sanctuaries for its rich collection of birds, reptiles, deer, wild cats and flower and fauna.

Sources said some politically influential people were behind the project. Therefore, any forest official trying to stop the “massacre” in the past was instantly transferred.

It all started in 2010 when hundreds of labourers started to chop down the forest trees defying interception by the forest officials, who file cases after cases with the police urging them to take action under the forest laws.

But the police remained totally blind to the plundering, forest officials said.