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    Volume 8 Issue 87 | September 18, 2009 |

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Stop the
Land Eaters

Aasha Mehreen Amin

For those of you who have not travelled around Bangladesh much but would want to get first hand experience of the amazing spots that attract many tourists these days, please do so quickly. The reason is not because it is difficult to get bus, air or train tickets, which is of course is the case this season. The reason is that many of our natural beauties scattered all over this fertile land, are being plundered by insatiable human greed for land.

This is why you hear about certain 'influential people' having the gall to claim parts of natural beaches in places like Cox's Bazar, Teknaf and Kuakata (Read The Daily Star's September 15 front page). I don't know if this is possible in other countries, to just set up a structure in the middle of a beach saying some Khadija Begum owns a piece of the ocean as she had inherited it through her father-in-law 40 years ago! But here in Bangladesh it is possible especially if you have the luck to have the right connections with the right people.

So even though the department of Environment (DoE) has classified the beach area of Cox's Bazar to be 'ecologically critical' and prohibits any kind of human intervention, hundreds of acres of the beach have been claimed by real estate developers and other influential people. That's what we humans are really good at. Whenever we see something beautiful we have the irresistible urge to grab it regardless of whether there is any just claim to such possession.

Thus the beautiful hills of Chittagong Hill Tracks are viciously cut to set up structures and forests are denuded shamelessly, in collusion with corrupt officials or law enforcement agencies.

Thus the plunder of 30,000 Jhau trees on Teknaf beach, trees that were planted in 1995 to form a shield for people during cyclones. Apparently the forest department officials were in some sort of stupor along with the police while the land grabbers happily felled the trees, one by one, all 30,000 of them. It was only after the deed was done that the officials woke up like Rip Van Winkle, to discover the nakedness of the forest.

The greed for land has prompted individuals to go into green forests and burn down houses of minorities, not out of communal hatred but because they just can't stop salivating at the thought of land, more land.

So poor Biswajit Das, a 30-year-old man trying to make a living finds one fine morning all of his 800 banana trees in his orchard cut down. The shock of it causes him to faint as the orchard had been his only hope to be self-reliant.

Many trees are being felled, in forests, in orchards, on the roadsides year after year. Very few care as their own habitat is slowly being transformed into a green-less, concrete hell. The authorities are still sleeping or pretending to sleep while our precious trees, rivers and beaches are being plundered.

This Eid for those of you who plan to escape to some idyllic spot in your motherland and there are still many such heavenly places, absorb the beauty as much as you can for all too soon that spectacular view, that soothing scene and that unadulterated piece of beach, may disappear or fall into the hands of the land-eating monsters. Unless of course, we all join hands to stop such a catastrophe.


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