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Dhaka Tribune

High Court orders government to define Nijhum Dwip forest

As the land has not been defined yet, squatters are illegally building structures in the area

Update : 15 Sep 2021, 10:48 AM

The High Court has asked the government to clearly define within six months the border of the reserved forest of Nijhum Dwip in Noakhali district.

A division bench of Justice Md Mozibur Rahman Miah and Justice Md Kamrul Hossain Mollah on Tuesday directed the director general of the Land Record and Survey Department, and the secretary and the chief conservator of the Forest Department to implement the order.

The High Court's order came in the wake of a writ petition filed by a local human rights activist, seeking its immediate intervention in demarcating the border of the reserved forest and suspending the upcoming Nijhum Dwip union parishad polls.

During the hearing, the court asked the defendants -- government departments -- why there should not be a proper demarcation of the border of Nijhum Dwip’s reserved forest.

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As many as 14 government officials, including secretaries of the Local Government and Rural Development Ministry, Home Ministry, The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, Land Ministry, Public Administration Ministry, and the chief election commissioner have been given four weeks to respond.

Barrister Humayun Kabir Pallab represented the petitioner in the court while Deputy Attorney General Nowroj Md Rasel Chowdhury stood for the state.

Barrister Pallab said that the reserved forest area is not yet determined, as a result of which squatters have been illegally grabbing the land of Nijhum Dwip and constructing illegal structures, posing a threat to the environment.

"The petitioner appealed to the court to suspend the Nijhum Dwip UP election slated for September 20. But the bench did not pass any order in this regard," he said.

According to the petition, the Forest Department started forestry on the island in 1947, which was later declared a national forest by the government.

In 2001, the government declared the entire area of Nijhum Dwip as reserved forest under Section 20 of the Forest Act, 1927.

In 2008, The Ministry of Local Government, Rural Development and Co-operatives formed Nijhum Dwip union parishad 11.

In 2012, the Environment, Forest and Climate Change Ministry announced Nijhum Dwip as a more specified reserved forest area through two gazette notifications. 

Local human rights worker Rafiq Uddin Enayet had sent a notice to the department concerned to determine the border. Having failed to get any response, he moved the court on Sunday. 

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