The court also declared a lease agreement, between Chittagong district commissioner and BBC Steel, as illegal
The High Court has observed that any notified forest area, no matter whether it is declared a reserved forest or not, cannot be allocated or leased for any purpose that damages the country’s forests.
The bench of Justice Moyeenul Islam Chowdhury and Justice Khandakar Diliruzzaman delivered the verdict on Thursday, following a writ petition filed by Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela).
Advocate Syeda Rizwana Hasan, Minhajul Haque Chowdhury and Advocate Sayeed Ahmed Kabir appeared for the writ petitioner while Barrister Mehedi Hasan Chowdhury represented BBC Steel.
The court also declared a lease agreement, under which the deputy commissioner of Chittagong issued the lease of 7.1 acres of a notified deep mangrove forest area at Uttar Salimpur in Shitakunda to BBC Steel on March 21, 2019, as illegal.
On October 6, 2013, the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court gave a verdict on a different case, which ordered the government to not allocate or lease out the country's forest lands for any purpose which causes damage to forests.
On December 26, 2018, the district commissioner (DC) of Chittagong violated the verdict and concluded an agreement with a private company, BBC Steel. Later, the agreement was extended for another year on 21 March, 2019.
After getting the lease, the company cut down some trees there and built roads in order to establish a ship-breaking yard.
Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela) went to the High Court with a writ on April 28, 2019, challenging the agreement between Chittagong DC and BBC Steel.
On May 13 last year, the HC issued a rule asking the authorities concerned of the government and BBC Steel to explain why the lease agreement should not be declared illegal.
The court also directed the authorities to stop activities aimed at the making of the ship breaking yard in the area.