An inter-ministerial body has decided against making a road through two reserve forests -- Hazarkhali Wildlife Sanctuary and Boroiyadala National Park -- in Chattogram.
The body was formed to resolve the dispute between the forest department and the Roads and Highway Department (RHD) over the proposed nine-kilometre road.
In its final report submitted to the RHD on January 29, the body comprising nine members from the forest, environment and climate change ministry, road transport ministry and planning ministry also suggested an alternative – expanding the existing Mirsarai-Narayanhat road connecting Mirsarai and Fatikchari upazila.
The Daily Star yesterday obtained a copy of the report.
The RHD had planned to make the road through the protected areas, but the proposal whipped up strong opposition among the divisional forest office (north) under Chattogram forest circle.
The RHD had also not taken clearance from the forest department for making the road.
Following the dispute between the two bodies, the committee -- led by Chandan Kumar Dey, additional secretary of the road transportation and bridge ministry -- was formed to assess the impact of the project.
In its final report, the committee came up with the alternative route considering the sensitivity of the biodiversity and wildlife resources of the forest.
After visiting the wildlife sanctuary and national park on 18 December 2019, the committee held a tripartite meeting where representatives of the RHD emphasised on the necessity of the road, insisting wildlife can be protected through erecting barriers, fencing and making corridors.
In the meeting, RHD representatives argued that the road would reduce the distance travelled by vehicles between Dhaka and Chattogram Hill Tracts by 70 kilometres and bring about socio-economic change for Mirsarai and Fatikchari upazilas.
The forest department said whenever a road is built through forest, logging, poaching and encroachment increase within the forest. It also highlighted the rich biodiversity that would be affected if the proposed road was built.
They said the two forests housed 189 rare species of trees, 119 species of shrubs and 170 species of herbs.
Besides, the forest was home to many reptiles and mammals, including the capped langur, monkeys, red junglefowl, oriental garden lizard, Tokay gecko, monitor lizard, wild boar, wild cat, python and deer.
Chandan Kumar Dey told The Daily Star that they did not want the road through the forest given its rich wildlife and biodiversity.
"Rather we recommended the existing Mirsarai-Narayanhat road connecting Mirsarai and Fatikchari upazila to be expanded by 18 feet so that more traffic can use the road," he said.
Meer Ahemed Tariqul Omar, deputy chief (roads transportation wing) under Physical Infrastructure of Planning Commission, during the meeting had also said that the road would endanger the biodiversity of the forests.
"The existing road can easily be expanded and improved. Besides, a four-foot wide trail can be made for the tourists so that they can relish the beauty of the forest on foot", he said in the meeting.
Earlier, the RHD issued a work order to its selected contractors to build a nine kilometre road through the protected areas after the Executive Committee for National Economic Council approved the project in May 2018.
The construction came to a halt after the forest department objected to it as no clearance was taken from them in line with a circular issued by the cabinet division in 2015. Earlier on November 10, 2018, The Daily Star published a report on the proposed road titled "Hazarikhil Wildlife Sanctuary: Plan to build road without cleara