The authorities of Rajshahi Medical College and Hospital recently cut off the branches of some trees that were home to a huge number of different species of birds. Amid protests from local environmental activists and conservationists, the director of RMCH admitted to the mistake and said he will refrain from such acts of environmental destruction in the future.
This reporter during a visit to RMCH earlier this year found thousands of birds at the premises, with Asian openbill storks, cormorants and night herons making nests on the trees in the RMCH compound and adjacent areas including Rajshahi Central Jail, Technical Training Centre (TTC) and Institute of Nuclear Medicine and Allied Science (INMAS) - Rajshahi.
According to local birders, the birds have been nesting at RMCH premises for the past 4-5 years.
Mizanur Rahman, founder of Save the Nature and Life, Rajshahi, said, "On December 28, the hospital authority cut down 80 percent of the branches of a large rain tree, located near the emergency unit of the hospital. Besides the authority also cut down branches of around 100 small Debdaru trees where many small and native birds would nest."
On the next day, activists under the banner of Mizanur's environmental organisation formed a human chain at the hospital gate, protesting the authorities' destruction of nature and habitat. During their demonstration, an altercation occurred with members of Ansar deployed at the hospital.
"After the human chain, I along with two university professors and a forest department officer met with the hospital director. We urged him to stop cutting tree branches, to which he replied that trees don't match the hospital and he has visited many hospitals in the countries where he didn't see any big tree," alleged Mizanur.
Contacted, Md Rahat Hossain, wildlife and biodiversity conservation officer at Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division of Rajshahi said, "When I heard the news I talked to the director over phone and later met him alongside two RU professors. The director claimed he did it to save patients and staff from birds' droppings. Later he promised that he will not cut branches of any trees and will not further disturb the birds."
Md Rahat Hossain said, according to the constitution and the Wildlife (preservation and security) Act-2012, destructing habitat of wildlife or birds is an offence. "The hospital authority cut down the branches while the Asian openbill stork resides there. If they continue this we will take legal action against the hospital authority," added Rahat.
When contacted, Brigadier General Shameem Yazdany, director of RMCH told The Daily Star, "My intention was not to disturb the birds. There's a big tree in front of the emergency unit. When I heard the birds' droppings were causing disturbance to patients, I told our staff to cut some of the branches adjacent to the paths near the unit."
"I wanted to cut off more branches of a tree near the public toilets but there was protest from journalists, activists and conservationists when we cut down the branches earlier. So I decided to not do this again," said Brig Gen Yazdany.
"If someone had informed me before cutting the branches then I wouldn't do it," he added.