Locals called on the authorities concerned to take an alternative initiative to set up gas pipelines without cutting down forest trees
The government has decided to cut down thousands of social forestry and reserved forest trees in Sakhipur upazila of Tangail to set up gas pipelines.
The decision has made locals and environmentalists apprehensive of an oncoming catastrophic shift in the regional ecosystem.
A total of 11,246 trees will be cut down under the project from several areas including Kalmegha, Kalidas, Gazaria, Pratima Banki, and Chilimpur of the upazila.
Destruction of forests will pose a serious threat to biodiversity and the regional ecosystem, said Somnath Lahiri, regional research officer of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA).
Meanwhile, local forest officials said that the number of trees that will be cut down in the greater interest of the country will not have much impact on the environment.
Earlier in 2014, the government undertook the “Dhunua-Elenga and Bangabandhu Bridge-Nalka Gas Transmission Pipeline Construction Project” to increase gas supply to Titas Gas affiliated Dhaka-Mymensingh divisions and western Rajshahi-Rangpur divisions.
Gas Transmission Company Limited (GTCL) has been implementing the project at the behest of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources at a cost of Tk969.17 crore to increase the overall capacity of the national gas grid.
However, the work on the gas pipeline in Sakhipur is currently on hold awaiting approval from the Prime Minister's Office.
GM Tofazzal Hossain of Kalmegha village in Sakhipur forest said: “If the forest trees are cut down, the environment will fall into imbalance. There may be no rain in the area in future.”
Locals called on the authorities concerned to take an alternative initiative to set up gas pipelines without cutting down forest trees.
Meanwhile, Somnath Lahiri of BELA, said: “Negotiations are underway with the government to stop this mass deforestation. If the talks are not fruitful, a case will be filed in the court.”
Speaking on the matter, Tangail Divisional Forest Officer Md Zahurul Haque, said: “The project is being implemented for the greater good of the country. Once the pipelines are fully installed, the forest department will undertake a reforestation project, owing to which there will not be any adverse impact on the environment.”
Most of the trees that are slated to be felled belong to social forestry, he said, adding that those who will be affected will be given financial assistance.