Right activists and leaders from various indigenous communities yesterday demanded immediate steps to stop illegal extraction of stone from natural waterbodies in Bandarban, and sand from rivers in Sherpur.
The call was made from a human chain in front of National Museum in Shahbagh. Bangladesh Adivasi Chhatra Sangram Parishad, Bangladesh Adibashi Nari Network and Kapaeeng Foundation jointly organised the event.
They alleged that the local administrations are turning a blind eye towards such illegal activities, and are reluctant to take any steps against the perpetrators, who are influential people.
Reading out a written statement, Khasri Dhopo, a member of the Adivasi Chhatra Sangram Parishad, presented a six-point demand, including taking steps to stop illegal extraction of stone and sand, proper implementation of high court’s directive in this regard, ensuring punishment of all perpetrators involved in extraction, preserving indigenous people’s rights on environmental and natural resources, and bolstering the government’s role to protect forests, environment and biodiversity in the country.
Pallab Chakma, executive director of Kapaeeng Foundation, said rampant stone extraction from hill tracts area including Lama, Ali Kadam, Rowangchhari and Thanchi upazilas is gradually drying up waterbodies and effectively turning Bandarban into a desert.
“People of the hills are suffering from severe water shortage as an influential group, without paying heed to rules, are continuing illegal stone-mining at Sangu and Matamuhri rivers,” he added.
He also urged the government to take steps to stop illegal sand extraction from rivers in Sribardi and Nalitabari areas of Sherpur.
Rafiq Ahmed Siraji, a representative from the Association for Land Reform and Development, threatened to launch tougher movement if the government does not take any step to stop this crime.
Bangladesh Chhatra Union’s former president Manabendra Deb said such illegal extraction will bring severe environmental disasters to the country.
“Local administration is turning a blind eye towards the illegal act by influential people in the areas,” he claimed.
Mahbubul haque, a member of rights body Jono Udyog, said the administration is not monitoring those who are violating the High Court’s direction. “It is shameful for us,” he added.
Adivasi Chhatra Sangram Parishad General Secretary Alik Mriee and member Sohel Hajong also spoke at the human chain.
On February 24, 2019, the High Court directed authorities concerned of the government to immediately stop extraction of stone from Sangu and Matamuhri rivers in Bandarban.