Stop relentless attacks on our forests
For years, unscrupulous people and entities have been devouring our precious rivers, hills, and forests, but preventive or punitive actions were seldom taken. These crimes have been normalised to an extent that no one bats an eye anymore at the news of such incidents. The latest of them, as reported by this daily on Wednesday, saw rampant tree-felling and excavation of ponds in parts of a reserved forest in Barguna, defying existing regulations and endangering the wildlife and ecosystem.
As a result, a section of the Patharghata mangrove forest, declared "reserved" in 1986, has turned into a pseudo-village with some locals setting up habitats by clearing the forest area. These settlers believe they have a right to the land, because in 1989-90, the then deputy commissioner of Barguna district had allocated 40 acres of land within the forest to 53 landless families. However, according to a Forest Department official, the allocation deal was cancelled when 21 acres of the "promised" land was left unoccupied, and was declared part of the reserved forest. The memo seemingly did not reach the encroachers, who are now stepping up efforts to occupy the remaining area. But nothing can justify the destruction of such a forest. We fail to grasp how these individuals can so openly defy the law about reserved forests or even attack government officials in their pursuit, as the report mentions. According to local sources, the encroachers have "managed" some forest officials to expand their illegal settlement. If the guardians of forests are compromised like this, how can we prevent such crimes or ensure justice?
In another news of the day, the once 300-metre-wide Hari River in Khulna—through which the water of 27 beels used to flow—has been reduced to a mere canal, thanks to rampant land grabbing and setting up of brick kilns, thus polluting surrounding areas. We have seen reports like this all too frequently over the years, yet no effective measures have been taken to stop such encroachment. This relentless assault on nature must stop. It is high time relevant departments were made accountable for their neglect or indifference in this regard. We must prioritise the wellbeing of our nature for the sake of our own survival.