Concerns over allotment of 700 acres of reserve forest land of Himchari

Special Correspondent,, Dhaka
ছবি: সংগৃহীত

ছবি: সংগৃহীত

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The 700 acres of gazetted forest land in Himchhari National Park in Jhilangja, Cox's Bazaar has been allotted to the Ministry of Public Administration for the construction of a training academy building for government officials and employees.

The Institute of Forestry and Environmental Sciences Alumni Association (IAA) of Chattogram University issued a statement on Saturday (September 18) expressing concern over the allotment.

According to the statement, the Ministry of Lands allotted the land ignoring the opinions of Environment Directorate, Ministry of Forests and Climate Change and the Parliamentary Standing Committee. The Land Ministry ignored the views and showed non-agricultural and khas lands for the training academy. The Forest Policy 1994, Forest Act 1927, Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act 2012, Environmentally Critical Areas Management Rules 2016 are contrary to various environmental regulations and there is no scope for using forest land in such activities.

The controversial decision comes at a time when Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, while chairing the Climate Vulnerable Forum, is leading the world in preventing the destruction of this national forest and biodiversity through innovative plans such as the Mujib Climate Prosperity Plan. Such actions would not only threaten the forests and biodiversity of the Cox's Bazaar area, but could also embarrass the Prime Minister at the upcoming CPO-26 global conference in Glasgow, UK.

The vast area of Cox's Bazaar district was once especially important as a habitat for various species of plants and wildlife, especially elephants. The forest also contributes immensely to the protection of life and property of the people of the coastal areas during various natural calamities including cyclones. But for humanitarian and strategic reasons to resolve the Rohingya crisis, the government has already had to allow more than 6,000 acres of forest land in Cox's Bazaar district to be used for non-forest activities. Now, if 700 acres of forest land is allotted in the name of construction of the training academy building, we fear that it will definitely bring about an environmental catastrophe. Similarly, various government and non-government organizations will be motivated to destroy more forests in the name of development. As a result, it will be difficult to protect the forest and the environment.

We all know that a country needs at least 25 percent forest cover to maintain its ecological balance. But in our country it is less than 10 percent. Therefore, we call upon the concerned Ministries of the Government to strengthen the hand of  Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina in achieving the SDG targets and conserving the biodiversity of the country by refraining from activities that destroy this limited forest area of our country.