When there is a huge national and global campaign for protecting the environment by planting trees, the Chittagong University authorities have started felling 500 trees on the green campus on different pretexts.
The authorities took the decision at a meeting around six months ago after some 20 to 30 trees fell on the roads.
Felling of trees has been going on for the last four months and is expected to be finished within the next month, said Senior Plantation Officer Md Kamal Uddin of the Institute of Forestry and Environmental Science under CU.
Around 400 of the tress have already been cut down, said some CU officials, seeking anonymity, although the authorities denied the claim.
Out of them, around 50 were aged between 50 and 100 years, said teachers of the institute.
“We cut only 126 trees and by selling those the university authorities will get Tk 2.91 lakh after paying three percent tax to the government,” said Kamal Uddin, adding that around Tk 10 lakh could be earned by selling all of 500 at auction.
Some old trees may suddenly fall down on the roads during the monsoon causing an obstruction and sometimes tearing down electric cables, said Mohammad Jashim Uddin, coordinator of forestry plantation unit. “We marked such roadside trees.”
Some teachers and students, however, opined that many of the trees were felled earlier although those did not pose such risks as claimed by the authorities.
The 500 trees include mahogany, teak, rain tree, mango, blackberry and jackfruit -- in front of the business faculty, Agrani Bank, central playground, gate no-2, Shahjalal and Suhrawardy halls, the security department, and on different hills.
Teachers of the forestry and environmental science deoartment expressed concern that the felling of trees will harm the ecosystem of the campus which is home to about 134 species of birds and a temporary abode to 47 species of migratory birds.
Prof Danesh Mia of the Institute of Forestry and Environmental Science said the removing of trees would also make the places vulnerable to landslides.
“The university's financial condition is not so bad that it will have to earn money by chopping down trees,” he added.
Jashim Uddin claimed that only old and dying roadside trees were selected for felling after an inspection by a five-member expert body of the university.
Two members were from the engineering office and three were field officers of the institute, said Kamal Uddin.
While visiting the area, this correspondent, however, found that scores of small and medium size trees, not located along roadsides, were felled.
Prof Farid Ahsan of the zoology department thinks the old trees are rather very important for biodiversity.
Former CU Birds Club coordinator Ibrahim Al Haidar said such tree felling spree would not only displace many birds and destroy the abode of migratory birds but also ruin the beauty of the campus.
Kamrun Nahar Sanjida, a second year journalism student, said once the university was known as a green campus but now it was losing its beauty.
Rashidul Samir, who graduated from the finance department, said, “Once the beautiful green campus attracted me a lot and I frequented there for refreshment but now, the scenario was quite different."
Some visitors said the campus was losing its tourism attraction.
CU Vice Chancellor Prof Iftekhar Uddin Chowdhury admitted that the tree felling will have temporary impacts on the nature. “But we will recover it by planting 1 lakh trees which will start at the end of this month.”