Twenty Thousand trees destroyed in Hakaluki Haor, Bangladesh
By Zeba Tarunnum
Twenty thousand trees, including Barringtonia acutangula and Millettia pinnata spices were cut down on the bank of Malam beels (Water body) at the Bangladesh government’s declared Ecologically Critical Area (ECA) of Hakaluki Haor.
The trees were grown naturally and planted partially with the funding of the Department of Environment (Bangladesh). There has been complaint that, by the power of the influential people, the leaseholders have cut down the trees in the name of building a dam on Malam beel. This is causing a threat to the biodiversity and environment of Hakaluki Haor. This beel is situated in the Baralekha part of Moulvibazar District.
Md. Abdul Monaf, a member of ECA Management Multipurpose Cooperative Society Limited and a guard at the aquatic forest, Hakaluki has lodged a written complaint against the seven accused persons to the Baralekha Upazila nirbahi officer (UNO). A copy of the complaint has been given to the Minister of Environment, Forests and Climate Change, the Department of Environment, and the Deputy Commissioner of Moulavi Bazar.
According to the complaints and local sources, the area of Malam Beel (fishpond) of Hakaluki Haor under Baralekha Upazila is 428.92 acres. Monadi Fishermen’s Cooperative Society of Baralekha Upazila has taken the lease of Malam Beel from the Ministry of Land from 1427 to 1432 Bengali years at a cost of over Tk. 21 lakhs.
The Department of Environment has planted various species of aquatic plants, including Barringtonia acutangula, Pongammia Pinnata, temple plants in the Environmentally Critical Area (ECA) with funding of various projects since 2003. Besides, various species of aquatic plants grow naturally there.
The aquatic plants are grown naturally and also partially planted by the Department of Environment currently reach 10 to 15 feet tall, which is especially contributing to the conservation of biodiversity and preventing the effects of climate change on the ECA area of Hakaluki Haor. On May 27, 2021, about 20,000 trees from three hector of land including the banks of the beel have been illegally cut down in the name of construction of embankment by the leaseholders under the power of the influential people.
Then they cultivated their land with tractors. This caused a serious threat to the natural environment and biodiversity of the haor area. Abdul Monaf and Arfan Ali, biodiversity conservationists (forestry guards), Hakaluki Haor, said, they started constructing the embankment by destroying the aquatic trees with excavators on the south and east side of the beel of the government’s land.
They did not listen to us. Many have made the paddy cultivation land by cutting down the trees on the bank of the beel. In this incident, a written complaint was lodged against seven accused persons.
Joynal Uddin, Director of Monadi Fishermen’s Association, said, the influential people invested in Jal Mahal ( natural fishes water body) lease are the ones who have cut down trees and built the embankment here. Although the work was not right at all.
Tapan Chandra Debnath, a junior wildlife scout, in charge of the Hakaluki bit in the forest department, said, he visited the spot after receiving the news from the submarginal forest’s guard.
The forestation was done under a project of the Department of Environment. “Therefore, I have verbally informed the matter to the higher authorities,” said Ripon Das, an environmentalist.” “When various measures are being taken to balance the environment and to tackle the adverse effects of climate change, Just then the trees are being cut down indiscriminately which will hurt the nature and environment of the Haor.” He added.
Shahid Al Shahin, Admin, and Finance Officer (AFO) of the EBA project, under implementation by the Department of Environment, said, he was informed of the tree-cutting incident by the submergible forest guard.
Under our project, eco-friendly trees, including Barringtonia acutangula and Pongammia Pinnata were planted on about 70 acres of land on the ECA declared Malam Beel area. The trees also grew a lot.
Md. Badrul Huda, Assistant Director of the Department of Environment, Moulvibazar, said, “I have discussed the matter of tree cutting with the higher authorities. Legal action will be taken against those involved by inspecting the place soon.”
Khondakar Mudassir Bin Ali, Executive Officer of Barlekha Upazila, said, we got a written complaint regarding this. Necessary legal action will be taken after investigating those who cut down the trees.