Functioning of illegal saw mills rapidly deforesting reserved forestations in coastal areas of Kalapara
Anisur Rahman Swapan
Unlicensed illegal saw mills running in different places of Kalapara upazila under Patuakhali district on the coast of Bay of Bengal rapidly deforesting the area making more vulnerable to climate change affects.
Negotiations between the timber merchants with the local officials, guards of forest and environment department alleged for this expanding crime.
Upazila forest officials claimed that that 59 sawmills existed in 11 unions and one municipal town of Kalapara upazila and at least 40 of those were license holders.
However Mezbahuddin Mannu, local environment activists, said most of the sawmills did not renewed or validated their documents from concerned departments.
Thus more than thirty sawmills running illegally in this coastal upazila making the local reserve forests to be barren land focusing half million people of the area vulnerable to climate change affects like storm, cyclone, tidal surges regularly.
Local journalists after visiting the area , contacting with local union parishad chairman and forest officials learnt that thirteen saw mills in Kalapara municipal area, eight under Baliatali, seven under Dhankhali, five under each of Nilganj, Mohipur,Latachapli, Champapur, four under Lalua, three under Mithaganj, two under Dalbuganj, one under each of Chakamaia, Tiakhali areas, functioning in Kalapara upazila.
However due to random functioning of these 59 sawmills within very short distances of reserved forestations areas, made within a decade for adapting climate change affects, turning this coastal upazila to be deforested barren lands exposing to climate change dangers, told Rabeya Begum, Lalua UP member of Char Nishanbaria area.
Nasir Talukdar, another UP member of Lalua told, miscreants cutting trees from coastal and social forestation areas at night saw those immediately at nearby saw mills and smuggled those to brick kilns and other business concerns.
Habibur Rahman Tipu, member of upazila forest and environment committee, acknowledged that most of the saw mills running violating all rules and regulations.
As per government rule no saw mill could be operated within 10 square kilometers boundary from the reserved forest areas, but none follow that regulation. Thus two saw mills situated at two sides of Lakkhir Pol under Latachapli union within few yards of distances and within two square kilometers of Gangamoti and Dhulasar reserved forest areas.
In the upazila level meetings of the committee mostly held on papers and no facts or any real scenario placed and discussed in there, Tipu told.
Emdadul Huq, forest officer of Mohipur range under Kalapara upazila not only failed to give any statistics about the accurate number of saw mills operating in the area, but also blamed beat-officers for not updating the data and negotiating with the timber smugglers.
Sukumar Biswas, director environment directorate Barisal office, said operating saw mill near any reserved forest areas was totally banned and there was a restriction to operate any saw mill without valid permission and regular renewal from DoE.
Edited By: Amader Barisal Desk