Preparation for Stone Quarries in Ecological-Critical Area Declared By Govt. of Bangladesh
By Zeba Tarannum
A notification was issued in 2015, declaring Jaflong in Sylhet as an Ecological-Critical Area (ECA). Since then, the lease settlement activities as sand and stone quarry have been stopped.
In this situation, an organization has pasted a signboard demanding, “The land settlement has been taken in the ECA area.”
It has been mentioned in the signboard of the High Court containing writ order, ‘Mining of mineral resources is in progress. The signboard was seen pasted under a small hill near Bangladesh’s zero lines- India in Jaflong in September 2020.
Although it is mentioned in the signboard that extracting mineral resources was going on, nothing was said about the organization involved in it.
However, with that writ number, M/S Jalalabad Lime Manufacturers and Trading Association recently sent a letter to the Upazila administration regarding Jaflong’s land about 48 years ago. By sending the message, the organization began the preparation to extract the stone from the claimed ground.
Nazmus Shakib, Upazilla Nirbahi Officer (UNO), Gowainghat Upazila, said, Sand-stone extraction is prohibited in ECA areas. Therefore, after pasting the signboard, the Mineral Resources Bureau and ECA have informed the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) to take effective legal action.
According to district administration sources, the reliance of machines on stone extraction makes Jaflong vulnerable. In 2012, in response to BELA’s application, the High Court directed Jaflong to declare the ECA.
In 2015 the notification was issued. The notification has been asked to carry out environmental and ecological development activities by forming an ECA management committee by completely banning stone extraction activities.
Upazila administration said, the Ministry of Power, Energy, and Mineral Resources declared Jaflong a ‘geological heritage’ in 2016, one year after the ECA notification issuance. The 22.59 acres of land in Jaflong was declared reserved.
The ‘Mining Lease’ of the Jalalabad Lime Manufacturers and Trading Association has fallen in Jaflong’s ECA and Geological Heritage Reserve area.
On August 17, the association wrote a letter requesting the Upazila administration to hand over the land’s possession. According to the letter, 6.58 acres of land in Chailakhel Mouza was acquired on October 11, 1972, for stone extraction.
Later 78.27 acres of land was leased for Mining. On 4 and 12 December 1991, the Department of Land of the district administration canceled the settlement without any notification. When they took refuge in the High Court in this regard, they recently received an order to maintain the land’s possession.
Locals peoples informed, a vast amount of stone has been stored in the place claimed by the organization since the ECA announcement. A pile of white stones has accumulated on the last hill slope around the Jaflong zero line. If this stone is lifted, there is a danger that ECA’s whole effectiveness in Jaflong will collapse.
Afshar Uddin, Managing Director, Jalalabad Lime Manufacturers, and Trading Association at Chhatak in Sunamganj, said, “Even though it is late, we are showing possession after getting the order of the high court.”
The environmental organization thinks there is an ulterior motive behind the activation of 48 years old demand. Sylhet region coordinator of BELA, Shah Shaheda Akhtar, said, where was the organization for so long? This is a ploy to destroy the stones deposited in Jaflong in the past.
Md. Mahfuzur Rahman, Assistant Director (Geophysics), Bangladesh Mineral Resources Development Bureau (BMD), said, ‘Jaflong belongs to ECA. Therefore there is no activity outside the ECA guidelines for this.’
Source: Green Page