Twenty-six green organisations yesterday demanded the government cancel its decision to fell century-old trees on Jessore-Benapole road considering ecological balance of the area and historic values of the trees.
Speaking at two programmes in the capital, leaders of the organisations said carrying out an environmental assessment is a must before taking up any development project in Bangladesh as it is vulnerable to climate change.
They threatened to go for a tougher movement if the government didn't rescind the decision to cut the trees in the name of widening the road.
Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (Bapa), WBB Trust, Tarupallab, Blue Planet Initiative, Nagarik Uddyog, Green Voice and Jessore Zila Samity, Dhaka jointly organised a press conference at Dhaka Reporters Unity to express their concern over the government decision.
The green activists said a total of 2,312 trees would have to be cut to widen the 38-km road and it would be a disaster for the environment as the trees spread out on over 210 acres, almost similar to the size of a forest.
The trees carry history and memory of the Liberation War in 1971, they said.
US poet Allen Ginsberg, who had visited the area in 1971, wrote the famous poem, “September on Jessore Road” about the plight of millions of scared Bangladeshis heading towards India.
“The road is not being upgraded to four lanes. Rather, it is being widened by only five metres. For this, the authorities are planning to cut the trees which are covering around 8.5 lakh square metre green areas,” said Iqbal Habib, joint secretary of Bapa.
He said taking up such a project without conducting any environmental, social or economical pre-assessment goes against the policy.
Amirul Alam Khan, former chairman of Jessore Education Board, said the road was about 150 years old and the trees were almost of the same age.
He said the road can be widened without felling trees. He urged all to stay alert so that a vested quarter cannot cut the trees for their own benefit.
Mokarram Hossain, general secretary of Tarupallab, said the road from Haridaspur to Kolkata has also been widened without cutting any trees.
CANCEL DECISION OR FACE AGITATION
As many as 19 green organisations, including Save the Environment Movement, Sacheton Nagorik Sangathon and Youth Foundation, yesterday gave a seven-day ultimatum to the government to cancel its decision on felling trees.
Otherwise, a tougher agitation programme would be launched jointly with different socio-cultural organisations, they added.
They also demanded the government cancel the tender process of the road expansion work and revise the Development Project Proforma by the next one week.