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Dhaka Tribune

BGB sets up camp on forest land without permission

Update : 28 Jul 2013, 02:33 AM

The government is set to legalise the taking over by the Border Guard of Bangladesh of a 16-hectare plot, which falls within the purview of a reserve and a protected forest area in Cox’s Bazar’s Rajarkul range.

Environment and Forest Minister Hasan Mahmud termed the land allocation a special consideration of the government since the BGB “needs the land to establish a permanent camp there.”

A committee, comprising officials of the ministries of environment and forest, and home, has been working on the matter since its inception recently. It will determine the necessity and proper site for the camp, the minister told the Dhaka Tribune on Saturday.

However, the BGB took hold of the land, situated beside the Chittagong-Cox’s Bazar highway, and started developing it a few months back without prior permission from the Forest Department. A number of trees in the area have already been chopped down for the development.

Rajarkul is located only two kilometres ahead of Ramu upazila headquarters and some 15km ahead of Cox’s Bazar district town.

Of the 16 hectares of land, 14.5 hectares fall under the reserved forest and the rest within the protected forest zone.

According to the National Forest Policy 1994, the permission of the head of the government is required to use forest land for any purpose other than afforestation.

On June 2, Chief Conservator of Forest Yunus Ali in a letter to the BGB director general expressed concerns over the setting up of the camp and requested that he stop the establishment work.

BGB chief Maj Gen Aziz Ahmed officially inaugurated the infrastructure work of the camp around two months ago, forest officials said.

The BGB chief on Thursday told the Dhaka Tribune that they were aware of the forest department’s objection but “the issue is now under consideration of the joint committee.”

“I hope that the things will be positive and we will be given the land to establish the camp,” he added.

Syeda Rizwana Hasan, executive director of Bangladesh Environmentalist Lawyers’ Association (BELA), said the government should not allocate any forest land for other purposes as “the country is losing forest area day by day.”

She told the Dhaka Tribune that the government could not transform the status of protected forest land once it was declared protected. “However, the status of reserved forest could be changed if the government felt it necessary,” she added.

Most of the reserve forests in the country was declared so in the 1930s.

Prof Anwarul Islam, a teacher of zoology at Dhaka University, said: “If the government considers leasing out the land to the BGB with the consideration of national security, it could be possible. But the responsible agency would have to protect the biodiversity of the nearby forest.”

According to the Forest Department, the country has declared 586,073 hectares of forest land as protected area. At the same time, each year it is losing huge amount of forest land because of unchecked cutting of trees and illegal occupation.

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