Hands off protected forestland
It is difficult to imagine a recent move by the public administration ministry to get allocation of 700 acres of protected forestland in Cox's Bazar's Shuknachhari to set up a civil service academy. This area is already under severe pressure from the influx of Rohingyas which has resulted in the razing of some 6,000 acres of forestland in southern Cox's Bazar. We do understand the need for an institution to train our future administrative cadres, but surely it does not have to be at the cost of disturbing the delicate ecological balance that exists in a forest which is already under threat. The Department of Environment has issued a no objection certificate for the acquisition of land on the condition that hills will not be cut and the environment will not be hurt. But it is hardly realistic for these conditions to be met, especially since this is a construction project that we are talking about.
The proposed site for construction in Shuknachhari was categorised as an ecologically critical area in a gazette notification issued back in 1999 and Section 17 of the National Land Use Policy-2001 says that such forestland should be conserved, maintained and expanded. Environmentalists agree that leasing out forestland for public construction would set a dangerous precedent and could open the doors for private entities to follow suit. We should be doing more to preserve the various species of animals and plant life that exist in the limited forestlands we have instead of opening them up for further decimation.
The recent decision by the Supreme Court which directed authorities to stop acquisition of land at the hills and hillocks of Jhilongja Mouja in Cox's Bazar for a residential project for officials of Bangladesh Power Development Board gives us hope that perhaps these precious forests will be left intact and an alternative site be selected for the academy.