Now DNCC felling trees in name of development
Seems like the two city corporations of Dhaka cannot initiate a development project without cutting down trees.
After much protests about the tree felling in Satmasjid Road by Dhaka South City Corporation, its north counterpart is carrying out a development project at the expense of greenery.
DNCC felled hundreds of trees on the median strip of Mohakhali-Gulshan Road to expand its island. Surprisingly, this comes in direct contrast to DNCC Mayor Atiqul Islam's recent pledge to plant two lakh trees.
Over a span of more than six months, DNCC has felled trees while working on an almost 1.7km median strip development.
Beyond its devastating environmental impact, DNCC's tree felling also violates existing laws. The city authorities are cutting down trees without obtaining the necessary permission from the forest department, according to sources inside the department.
Despite the clear requirement to seek approval from the Divisional Forest Officer to cut any tree under Section 5 of the Forest Product Transit Rules-2011, the city authorities went ahead with the project without the necessary approvals.
However, the forest department failed to intervene when DNCC's assigned workers were felling the trees in front of their office. The old median was broken and trees were cut down to make the new median strip more convenient, said construction workers and locals.
Recently, the Department of Urban and Regional Planning at Buet stated that 20 percent green space is required in Dhaka, where there is less than 8.5 percent of such spaces.
According to DNCC sources, DNCC spent nearly Tk 22 crore on development works under the "Traffic Infrastructure Development and Road Safety" project. The project was extended until June 30 of this year.
During a recent visit, this correspondent found that the Mohakhali-Gulshan road has seen the loss of many trees due to the ongoing renovation work on the road island in front of the National Institute of Cancer Research and Hospital. Around 30 tree trunks are scattered in various places on the road median strip, with many tree branches also buried in the soil.
This correspondent also counted that there are 150 trees on the 1.7km road median strip. More than half of these trees are at risk due to the renovation work as over a dozen trees have already fallen victim to "development". Almost 20 trees have died due to the ongoing work.
According to Google Street View and local residents, there were almost 300 trees on the median strip of Mohakhali-Gulshan Road.
Jalil Uddin, a construction worker who joined the project almost three months ago, told The Daily Star that the trees have made it difficult for them to do their work properly.
"We are removing the old median strip structures as trees are leaning over the road, often causing accidents. We have to do this to prevent accidents," he added.
Meanwhile, residents of the adjacent to Mohakhali-Gulshan Road are outraged by DNCC's tree felling.
"After the mayor's pledge to plant two lakh trees, we thought things were going to change. But now we see that these are just empty words," said Aminul Islam, a local.
Joney Enterprise, a construction company, is the contractor for the project.
Dilip Babu, managing director of Joney Enterprise, said the trees that "died" during the construction of the median strip were taken away by DNCC so that they don't fall on the road.
He claimed that they did not cut down any trees.
However, on February 1, this construction company sent DNCC officials a letter expressing concern that there is a risk that trees might fall while working.
Babar Ahmed, deputy assistant engineer of Zone-3 of DNCC, told The Daily Star that the trees were cut down for the convenience of the work. "Initially, none of the trees were felled."
However, he could not come up with a number when asked about these "risky" trees.
Requesting anonymity, a forest official said they did not receive any application from the DNCC and nor give any permission in this regard.
Contacted, Selim Reza, chief executive officer of DNCC, said a few trees might have been taken away due to the risks while working on the median strip.
When asked about the required permission from the forest department, Reza avoided the question.
Sharif Jamil, general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon and a regular commuter of the Mohakhali-Gulshan road, recently witnessed the trees being cut down.
Discussing with the designers of the project responsible for the tree felling, Jamil said it is necessary to change the perspective of those involved with such development projects. "It is possible to construct a median strip without cutting down trees."
Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (Bela), said, "Tree felling is not acceptable in any way. The unnecessary median strip should not be built. This is a clear waste of money," she added.