Environment, forest and climate change minister Md Shahab Uddin on Sunday directed the country’s eight divisional commissioners for taking measures not to lease out forestlands to individuals and businesses and to evict the grabbers of forestlands.
At a routine meeting with the divisional commissioners at his office, Shahab Uddin asked the officials to pass on the order to all 64 deputy commissioners not to lease out anymore forestland in protecting the country’s forests.
He also advised the divisional commissioners to mount pressure on the deputy commissioners to conduct eviction drives against the grabbers of the forestlands.
The minister further advised the officials to order the DCs to operate drives against the illegal sawmills in stopping the illegal timber trade and protecting the environment.
He also instructed them to take measures to declare more reserve forests.
Dhaka division’s commissioner Md Mustafizur Rahman at the meeting proposed to form a committee comprising officials of the Gazipur DC office and the forest department to take a three-month-long crash programme to demarcate the forestlands in the district for evicting the grabbers and also for easing harassment of private land owners.
Other divisional commissioners also expressed their determination to protect the forestlands under their jurisdictions.
The environment ministry, the department of forest and the parliamentary standing committee on the environment, forest and climate change ministry have recently held a series of meetings with officials of various agencies for the protection of the forests after the country has lost over 4.58 lakh acres of forestlands in the past 70 years.
On November 22, the forest department organised a meeting with the department of land records and surveys for taking special measures to rein in the undesirable trend of recording forestlands as khas land or private land.
Forest department officials said that the agency had to hand over 1.60 lakh acres of forestlands to different agencies.
District administrations and the Land Reforms Board have leased out an estimated 11,000 acres of forestlands to big businesses for developing farms, factories, housing and other enterprises.
Over 1,00,000 occupiers grabbed an estimated 2.87 lakh acres of forestlands to carry out agricultural activities and develop factories, resorts, recreation parks, picnic spots, film cities, schools and others, they said.