Forests of Gazipur Bhawal region under threat of unplanned urbanization

Published : 17 Jul 2020 09:33 PM | Updated : 29 Aug 2020 02:36 AM

Mehedee Hasan Sohel,  Gazipur correspondent 

Forests and nature of Gazipur Bhawal region are under threat due to unplanned urbanization, setting up of industries and mills and environmental pollution. Industrialists, after purchasing less land in the forest occupy several times more forest space; destroy nature by building factories in the forest.

It is often heard that influential people and forest workers are involved in Behat, the place of forest. And the untreated toxic liquid wastes from these factories flow to open water. 

The toxic wastewater of the factory is polluting the natural reservoirs Turag, Shitalakshya, Balur River and Belai beel, which are famous for fish stocks. These open water bodies are now empty of aquatic life.

There is a strong framework of laws, rules and policies to protect environment. The government enacted the Environmental Policy in 1992, the Environmental Protection Act in 1995, the Environmental Protection Rules in 1997 and the Environmental Court in 2000. In 2010, the government amended the Environmental Protection Act 1995. 

The Environ­mental Court Act 2010 has empowered the people to file lawsuits against the Department of Environ­ment as well as any person / organization that pollute the environment. Besides, the National Forest Policy of 1993 has been issued for the conservation, expansion and development of forest resources of the country.

 While environmentalists and conscious countrymen are vocal about keeping this ancient mangrove plant alive by encouraging social forestry. 

Due to the occupation of forest lands and deforestation, wild animals and birds are no longer seen in the forests of Gazipur. That is why for several years there has been a demand to 'save the forest before saving the wildlife'. The impact of climate change in our country has increased the level of natural disasters. 

Natural disasters are on the rise worldwide due to man-made factors including excessive use of carbon compounds, deforestation, and rising atmospheric temperatures. Bangladesh has been observing World Environ­ment Day every year in tandem with the world to make the people aware. 

Although there are public and private initiatives for the protection and afforestation of forests across the country, the forests and forest lands of Gazipur are getting better every day.

Officials and employees of the Gazipur office of the Department of Environment are working to protect the environment. Brickfields are illegal in urban areas. In pursuance of this directive of the High Court, all the illegal brickfields in the district have been shut down, including all the brick fields inside the city.

A fine of Tk 4.1 crore has been levied for the implementation of the order of the Honorable High Court by operating a mobile court headed by an executive magistrate. 

Imprisonment without pay has also been given for different terms for non-payment. Officials at the Gazipur office of the Department of Environment think that if there was a magistrate in the environmental court, the amount of fines would have increased. 

Environmental officials believe that more manpower is needed to oversee the activities of more than ten thousand small and large industries in the district. 

There is no benefit in filing a case alleging damage to the environment, including destruction of forest lands and destruction of nature, filling of water bodies and extinction of aquatic life due to toxic industrial waste. 

The concerned officials filed 5 cases in different police stations of Gazipur and filed charge sheets in the court on various allegations including filling of water bodies and environmental pollution. 

In the meantime, after the court framed charges, the two accused were transferred from Gazipur to Dhaka. Sheikh Mujahid, inspector of the Gazipur office of the environment department, said, "Once the case is transferred, we have nothing to do." 

According to several responsible sources, who did not want to be named, the office of the Divisional Director needs to be set up in this industrial district to get immediate benefits in preventing environmental pollution and protecting natural resources.

Abdus Salam Sarkar, deputy director of the Gazipur office of the Department of Environment, thinks that Gazipur has more factories and environmental protection work than many other districts in the country. 

The amount of punishment in the mobile court is limited. It takes time to take action against a large number of violators of environmental laws by sending files or documents to Dhaka. Establishment of the office of the Divisional Director is a matter of high-level decision of the Government.

Environmental and nature conservation demands time for sustainable development. The allegation that forest workers are not trying to protect the forest is long standing. 

There is talk of a lack of sincerity on the part of those involved in rescuing forest land. In Gazipur, there are many allegations including environmental pollution and filling of water bodies by dumping toxic liquid waste from  factories.

Environmental court needs to be set up in Gazipur to protect nature and environment. At the same time, it is necessary to take initiative to make the Forest Act 1928 up-to-date by amending it.