Hundreds of acres of forest, crop land, water bodies destroyed

August 6, 2013

Purbachal Housing Project
Hundreds of acres of forest, crop land, water bodies destroyed
Hundreds of acres of forest, crop land, water bodies destroyedThe authorities destroyed nearly 1,600 acres of crop land, forests, orchards and water bodies in Kaliganj under Gazipur district for creating Purbachal New Town, a government housing project, about 16 km from the capital.
Flanked by the rivers, Balu and Sitalakhya, the township is partially curved out of Rupganj upazila in Narayanaonj district and Kaliganj upazila in Gazipur district.
Public Works and Housing Ministry and Rajdhani Unnayan Kartipakkhya took the massive housing project with the declared objective of reducing population pressure on the capital.
Being built to provide environment friendly atmosphere to its future residents, the project completely destroyed the greenery and the ecology in surrounding areas, alleged local people.
Trees and forest coverage in several villages, particularly in Barakau, Bashabasi, Parabartha and Kalikuthi were wiped out, they said.
achine, all the fruit orchards, bamboo groves of these villages ruined in the name of environment friendly housing project.
Safiq, a villager from Parabartha, told New Age that there was no trace of over 800 acres of shal and gazari forests and 700 acres of crop land in his neighbourhood.
He said that thousands of monkeys, porcupines, rabbits, foxes and other wild animals also disappeared with the destruction of the forests.
Monowara Begum of Kalikuthi recounted with tears the destruction of her family graveyard where her daughter was buried.
She said she lost two bighas of land, a  horticulture garden and a bamboo plantation.
She said that her bamboo plantation gave her over Tk one lakh each year.
‘I lost everything,’ she said.
She told New Age Rajuk gave her family  one month’s time to leave its home and hearth.
At Barakau the scenario was equally sad.
Milon Bala said when villagers resisted  Rajuk’s bid to destroy trees and forests, Rajuk officials threatened that they would be bulldozed too.
Shal, sandal and rain trees, mahoganies,  medicinal herbs and standing vegetable crops grown commercially were destroyed, she said.
She said that the male members of the families were sent to jails after the local administration filed fabricated murder cases against more than 50 individuals.
She said that 1,500 others were framed in false cases of extortion, killing the police, abduction and the like.
Uttarkhan Union chairman MD Kamal Uddin said that Gazipur district administration first acquired the land in 1994 but following appeals from locals, the then prime minister cancelled the acquisition order in March 2000 through a gazette notification.
Again, the BNP-led alliance government served notices upon the villagers in 2002 informing them of a plan to acquire the land.
Finally, the district administration issued a notice in 2009 saying the land was being reacquired, and asked villagers to receive Tk one lakh per bigha in compensation, he said.
He said that according to the project surveyor, Datex consultant in Parabartha and Barakau Mouja there are 42.46 per cent of forest and 49.22 per cent agri land which was shown 5.7 percent forest in Rajuk proposal.
Save the Environment Movement chairman Abu Naser khan said that the project authorities have been filling earth and constructing structures on around 1600 acres of land illegally since 2010 as it has not collected environment clearance certificate from the Department of Environment.
He said that a DoE report in 2010 said the housing project would ruin the area, which is rich in biodiversity. Most of the acquired land is covered by shal forest. The tree coverage here is better than that in the Bhawal National Park.
In a letter to the prime minister’s office on September 20, 2010, the housing and public works ministry said that no forest or crop land were there in the   area acquired at Barakau and Parabartha moujas. The letter was sent in response to an inquiry by the PMO.
He said that even the High Court on 1st August this year directed the authorities concerned to stop the activities of Purbachal housing project at Barakau and Parabarth areas in Gazipur until further order.
A project official of Rajuk said the revised project implementation period is July, 1995 to December, 2015. There will be provision of about 26,000 residential plots of different sizes and 62,000 apartments with all necessary infrastructure and urban facilities.
The total Project area is 6,150 acres which is divided into 30 sectors. Development works have been going on in 4500 acres (Narayangonj part) since 2002-2003 fiscal and in rest 1500 acres (Gazipur part) development works have been started from January, 2013.
However, project director Anwar Hossain told New Age ‘some tree felling is must to develop a town and we will plant double the trees being felled.’
He said that the project development work was suspended following a High Court injunction.
After the Eid vacation when the HC would open Rajuk would pray for withdrawal of the injunction to re-start the development.
Rajuk could not complete 25 per cent of development since it took the project 20 years ago in 1993, he said.

Courtesy of New Age

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