Speakers at a discussion yesterday urged the government to formulate a new act for conservation of the country’s forest resources as the existing law is vague and nearly a century old.
Forest is the most important asset for Bangladesh, which is highly susceptible to disasters like cyclone and flood. The new act will help keep this asset safe from grabbers and make the government accountable, they said.
Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD), a non-government organisation, arranged the discussion on forest act at Jatiya Press Club in the capital.
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela), said the present act was formulated back in 1927 and it has no guideline for forest conservation, which is frustrating.
Besides, the act did not describe what will be the responsibility of the relevant government officials, including forest department, in terms of conservation. Therefore, replacement of the vague act is necessary, she said.
The noted environmental activist and lawyer also said the government is in a complex situation regarding forest management due to corruption and irregularities of the forest department.
A new trend has emerged nowadays -- if land is required for any development activities, the government simply allocates forest lands, Rizwana said.
“The government knows its forest department is inefficient, non-transparent and corrupt. So, it goes after forest land whenever it needs land,” she added.
Sanjeeb Drong, general secretary of Bangladesh Adivasi Forum, said true development will take place only if the country’s forests, rivers and other natural resources are protected.
He urged the government not to build commercial structures, like restaurants and hotels in the name of establishing eco-tourism spots in natural forests.
Speaking at the event, Chakma Circle Chief Raja Debashish Roy alleged that the ethnic minority communities who live in forests are often “harassed” by cases which are mostly vague and based on silly matters.
He demanded that the government stop this unfair practice immediately.
ALRD Executive Director Shamsul Huda and Justice Mohammed Nizamul Huq, among others, also spoke on the occasion.