Local people wishing anonymity alleged that Masud Khan, ex-president of Jogodishpur union BCL unit and son of Jahed Khan, agricultural secretary of Madhabpur upazila Awami League unit, has been cutting hill with several dredgers to lift silica sand from Boikunthopur Tea garden, ignoring environmental laws for years.
Nipel Paul, joint secretary of the Bangladesh Tea Labourers Union, said: “Masud Khan and his gang are lifting sand by cutting hills of the tea garden which will harm environment.”
“Many roads of the tea estate have damaged due to the rampant lifting of sand, we requested them to stop cutting hills, but they did not pay heed to our appeal,” said Paul.
He said: “We have already informed local administration about hill cutting and sand lifting. I am hoping that the local administration will take stern action against the people who are working against ecological balance.”
Diti Sawntal, a tea labourer of the garden, said: “We are suffering a lot as the hill cutter had damaged roads of the garden but we cannot raise our voice against them as they are so powerful.”
Robi Dash, another tea farmer, said: “Everyday, they cut huge area of hill and lifted sand by hundreds of trucks. They used to torture us after we protested them.”
“They are destroying our garden, roads and hills but we cannot say anything. We have nothing to do,” he added.
Ignoring the allegation of cutting hills, Masud Khan said: “We are not cutting hills. We have paid Tk2 crore to manager of the tea garden and now we are just lifting sands from the garden.”
Diresh Bhattacharjee, manager of Masud, said: “We have taken lease of the hills and now we are lifting silica sand from the garden without violating any rules.”
Besides, Additional Deputy Commissioner (ADC) of Habiganj Rokon Uddin said: “In response of a writ petition of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) the High Court has directed to stop hill cutting in the district.”
“We have already fined Tk10 lakh to the sand lifter of Boikunthopur Tea Garden and if any one try to lift sand from the garden, we will take strict action against him,” said the ADC.