Parbatya Chattogram Forest and Land Rights Protection Movement has called upon authorities concerned to take measures to protect the Sangu-Matamuhuri Sanctuary and the Reserve Natural Forest and take action against those destroying the forest.
Declared protected in 1880, this forest is known as the only virgin forest in the country.
The forest and land rights body said in a statement yesterday that organised timber smugglers, with the support of some unscrupulous officials of the forest department, were destroying the reserve forest through illegal logging activities.
Signed by Gautam Dewan, president of Forest and Land Rights Protection Movement, the statement said the Sangu-Matamuhuri Sanctuary was created in 2010 by taking a part of the Sangu-Matamuhuri Reserve Forest to preserve the existence of endangered wildlife in Bangladesh.
The Sangu reserve forest is home to 36 species of mammals, 48 species of reptiles, 19 species of amphibians, and 11 species of rare birds, the statement also said.
Since mid-September, timber smugglers have employed over 1,000 people to cut down trees in the reserve forest, the statement alleged.
In its statement, the body called for immediate removal of timber loggers from the protected Sangu forest, departmental action against dishonest officials of the forest department, closure of permits and suspension of timber transportation at Boro Madok, Choto Madok, Remakri and Tindu areas adjacent to the forest, and the formation of a high level multi-sectoral investigation committee.
The body expressed concerns over allegation that the forest department, police and other law enforcement bodies were involved in smuggling of timber from the protected forest through about 12-14 check-posts.
The destruction of the forest and sanctuary will have a serious impact on the water flow of the Sangu River, alongside multidimensional environmental disasters in this region, the statement added.
Contacted, Md Anwar Hossain, assistant conservator of forest (ACF) of Bandarban Pulpwood Plantation Division, said, "We have some limitations in ensuring constant vigilance in the Sangu Reserve Forest as the forest is in a very remote area."
He, however, denied the allegation of forest officials' involvement in timber smuggling.