Publish: 11 Oct 2021, 08:01 pm
The High Court has stayed
the allotment of 700 acres of forest land for the construction of a training
academy for government officials in Cox's Bazar. At the same time, the court
issued a rule asking why the allocation order would not be declared invalid.
The High Court bench of Justice Mohammad Mojibur Rahman Miah and Justice Mohammad Kamrul Hossain Mollah passed the order on Monday (October 11) following a writ petition.
Advocate Moniruzzaman Kabir appeared for the court writ petition. Deputy Attorney General Bipul Bagmar represented the state.
The four-week cabinet secretary, environment and forest secretary, land secretary and public administration secretary have been asked to respond to the rule.
On September 5, a report was published on a national daily under the headline '700 acres allocated for forest administration academy'. According to the report, 700 acres of 'protected forest land' have been allotted to build another training academy for government officials. The area of Jhilangja forest adjacent to Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive is environmentally critical.
The land was allotted by the Ministry of Lands, despite objections from the Department of Forests and the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. The forest department claims this land is theirs. But the Ministry of Public Administration has allotted this land from the Ministry of Land.
According to the Environmental Protection Act, construction of any kind of installation is prohibited in this environmentally endangered forest. For this reason, letters were sent from the forest department to various departments stating that 'this land is not negotiable. In the allocation letter of the Ministry of Land, one of the country's biodiversity-rich forest lands has been shown as non-agricultural khas land.
The land ministry said the allotted land includes 400 acres of hills and 300 acres of springs. They have taken the value of the land as 4 thousand 803 crore 64 lakh 23 thousand 600 taka. But the symbolic price for the academy is only 1 lakh taka.
In 1935, the British government declared it a protected forest. The forest department has been maintaining it for so many years. Jhilangja forest is a safe haven for the country's important wildlife, including endangered Asian wild elephants. According to the forest law, the forest department alone has the authority to lease or not to lease this forest rich in hills and rhymes. But the forest department in its letter to the land ministry said in a circular issued by the land ministry in 1990 that the hills and hill slopes of the Chittagong division were not manageable and that the land would be used mainly by the forest department for afforestation. According to forest law, any kind of installation in such a protected forest is prohibited.
Attaching this report, Supreme Court Lawyer Sheikh Mohammad Moniruzzaman Kabir filed a writ petition in the public interest in the High Court.
At the hearing, he said the forest department owns 700 acres of this forest land. The land ministry has allotted the land to the public administration ministry ignoring the objections of the forest department. Although the owner of this forest is not the Ministry of Land.
At the hearing, the lawyer said the country's highest court has a verdict to protect the environmentally sensitive area. There, a government department destroyed 700 acres of forest and allocated land to build a training academy there. If an academy is built here, a terrible environmental catastrophe will come down. Following the hearing, the High Court stayed the forest allotment order for three months and issued a rule.