The government is implementing a special Ashrayan project on a newly-emerged char (land emerged from the the Bhola river) at Sharankhola range of the East Sundarbans division of Bagerhat.
Although the Bhola river falls under the Sharankhola range of the Sundarbans, the district administration of Bagerhat started development work of the Ashrayan (shelter for the poor) project in March.
The local administration of Sharankhola started earth filling to build the special Ashrayan Project-2 on five acres of the char, said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Mahmudul Hasan of Sundarbans East Division.
The forest department sent a letter to the deputy commissioner (DC) of Bagerhat on April 26, requesting him to stop the project on the land, but they did not pay any heed, he said.
“We also sent a letter to the Ministry of Environment and Forests on April 3, informing them about the matter. The High Court has given directives to the DC to stop the work of the project, but those were ignored. Work of the project is going on. If it does not stop, the mangrove forest will face an ecological crisis,'' he added.
“The natural resources and biodiversity of the Sundarbans will be threatened by the settlement of homeless people on the char of the Sundarbans. They will become dependent on the reserve forest for livelihood, which might destroy the forest and its resources,” the DFO said.
They have written to the ministry about the issue, but the development work has not stopped, he added.
In 2005, three projects of Sonatola-1, 2, 3 in Sharankhola were postponed for protecting the biodiversity of the Sundarbans, he said, adding that the work of a project in Daser Varani area in Dakkhin Rajapur village under Sharankhola upazila was cancelled in 2013.
Nur Alam Sheikh, Bagerhat coordinator of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon (Bapa), said the wrong decision of the administration will harm the Sundarbans, adding that Bapa protests the decision.
Emdadul Haq, assistant director of the District's Department of Environment, said Ashrayan project has not taken any permission from the department. They have come to know that the High Court has given directives to stop the work, he said.
Sharankhola Upazila Nirbahi Officer Lincoln Biswas said the district has jurisdiction over a new char. "I did not get any direction from the court in this regard," he added.