Ship-breakers clear Sitakunda mangroves |
Existence of the mangrove forest in the Sitakunda coastal belt is at stake as a syndicate of land grabbers has been felling a large number of growing trees for establishing a ship-breaking yard.
Officials of the Chittagong Coastal Forest Department (CCFD) and local sources said the syndicate already grabbed a big portion of the mangrove forest at Bashbaria under Sitakunda upazila felling a huge number of trees last week.
The CCFD had turned the huge char (shoal) land on the bank of the Sonaichhari channel adjacent to the Sitakunda coast into a mangrove garden by planting trees during 1989-'90 to create new forest areas and job opportunities for poor people, preserve bio-diversity, and to protect lives and properties of the inhabitants of the coastal belt from natural disasters.
A gang of miscreants under the patronisation of the land grabbers manhandled employees of the CCFD and threatened them with dire consequences when a team of the department went there to stop illegal felling of trees, officials alleged.
The Sitakunda range officer of the Forest Department filed two cases with the Sitakunda police station in this connection.
Nizam Uddin, co-owner of the under-construction ship-breaking yard, Sea Steal Yard, claimed that they had leased six acres of land at South Sonaichari village under Sitakunda upazila from the district administration about 5-6 months ago for establishing the yard. He denied the allegation of felling trees.
Talking to BSS, Divisional Forest Officer of the CCFD Dewan Zafrul Hassan said the forest department, not the district administration, is the owner of the land in Sonaichari area.
The department developed the mangrove forest spending a huge amount of public money. So, there is no scope to lease out the land to any private party for commercial purposes, which is a threat to environment, and lives and properties of the local people, he added.
Meanwhile, local people alleged that the vast area now looks like a barren land as the land grabbers felled hundreds of growing trees.
The CCFD authorities in a press release yesterday requested the administration, public representatives and conscious people in the area to help save the mangrove forest from the hands of the dishonest quarter for the greater interest of the local people and the environment.