Patuakhali’s Kalapara: Houses, fish enclosures at the expense of mangroves
Destroying mangrove forests, fish enclosures and residential houses are being constructed in Patuakhali's Kalapara. Locals alleged that rather than protecting the forests, forest department is assisting a vested quarter to cut different species of trees including chaila, keora, bine and golgach.
Over the years, the mangrove forests have earned a reputation as green walls, for shielding people from cyclones and various natural disasters. Locals said if tree felling goes on unabated, they will be more vulnerable to storms.
Around 330km of embankment was constructed in Kalapara upazila in the 1960s to protect arable land and crops from salt water. Mangrove forests have been created outside these flood control dykes.
In a recent visit to Madhukhali village of Mithaganj union, it was seen that fish enclosures are being built on the banks of Sutakhali canal on the south side of East Dhukhali bazar.
Local Abul Kalam Khan is building the enclosures on about 1.50 acres of land outside the flood control dyke.
Asked, he said a landless person named Moslem was allotted 1.50 acres of land by the government. After his death, Kalam said he bought the land from Moslem's son Fakirul and his wife Farida Begum.
Another local Sahin Hawladar is building a fish enclosure by uprooting trees on about an acre of land, occupying the canal bank on the south side of Kalam's fish enclosure.
He did not agree to talk to this correspondent in this regard.
Besides, one Yusuf Sikdar is building a permanent establishment occupying 40 decimals of land on the west bank of the canal. Sikder claimed that he owns the land.
Ferdous Gazi of the same area has occupied the bank of a canal and built a house. He said he built a house on the land in front of his grandson's property.
Contacted, Latachapali Union Chairman Anshar Uddin Molla, said, "A group of people are felling trees during night to build houses and fish enclosures."
Forest Department Mohipur Range Officer, Abul Kalam Azad, couldn't be reached for comment despite several attempts.
However, Patuakhali Divisional Forest Officer Abdullah Al Mamun, said the matter will be investigated. "If necessary, those involved in these activities will be identified and brought under the law," he added.
Contacted, Shankar Chandra Baidya, Kalapara UNO and upazila forest and environment committee president, said the range officers of Forest Department have been instructed to take necessary legal action against those involved in the destruction of mangrove species and protected forest areas.