A report from Sylhet in this paper yesterday has revealed some very concerning news. At present there are over a thousand stone crushers operating in six upazilas of Sylhet, most of them without permission or clearance. The result is a frightening destruction of the environment with once scenic greenery or paddy fields being replaced by piles of stones as stone crushers have come in and invaded the land. The destruction has happened over years with those operating these machines doing so with absolute disregard for the law. There is a rulebook that gives guidelines on how stone crushers can be used but nobody has bothered to enforce these rules. Even a High Court order to remove all illegal stone crushers, establish specific crushing zones and enforce the rules have been completely ignored. The question is, why has the administration not implemented the order? How it possible that parts of the Surma riverbank is occupied by stone crushers? How can stone crushers operate on other river banks, in front of highways, educational institutions and even in Jaflong which is an ecologically critical area?
The answers to these questions are not hard to come up with. The news report quotes the general secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon saying that many influential people especially those with political links are behind the business of stone crushing which provides a plausible reason for this strange reluctance to apply the law that would save the environment and also a lot of the farmlands in these areas. Such allegations have been denied by the DC of Sylhet who says that the reason behind the inaction is that the administration first wants to find a designated land where stone crushers will operate and then conduct a drive against illegal traders. We cannot help but wonder whether we can afford to wait that long as already many areas have been destroyed with others facing a similar fate.
Moreover, the land selected to create a stone crushing zone is next to a protected forest which will only add to the environmental destruction. Many other forest lands have been grabbed by stone crushers.
It is time the administration takes a proper look at the situation. Illegal stone crushers have to be banned or phased out completely and designated land must be carefully selected, making sure it will not lead to another wave of environmental degradation. Nothing can justify this brazen onslaught on precious greenery and riverbanks that are actually killing the lifeline of the people.