25 February 2014 - The Forest Department yesterday started removing the installations of two ship breaking yards, which were set up after razing several thousand trees on 14.5 acres of forested land in Sitakunda upazila of Chittagong four years ago.
The drive was launched in line with a Supreme Court order of October 6 last year. The review of the verdict was completed on January 30.
The court also directed the Chittagong deputy commissioner to give all assistance to the eviction drive and not lease the land to any person or organisation in the future.
The eviction team, led by Executive Magistrate Abdullah Arif Mohammad, planted over 1,000 saplings of different tree species on the recovered land.
In 1989, the authorities started foresting 125 acres of land along the Sitakunda coast, said Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) of the coastal division RSM Munirul Islam.
But in 2009, some land and district administration officials illegally leased out 14.5 acres of the land to SK Steels, and SK Ship Breaking and Recycling, said Range Officer of the coastal forest division Muktaruzzaman. He said the officials admitted this before court.
To set up the yards, the lessee felled 15,000 trees on July 3, 2009, said officials. Yesterday, two buildings were demolished, while the rest of the installations, including power generators, will be removed today.
Kamal Chowdhury, one of the three owners, alleged that they were not informed of the drive beforehand. “Now we have crores of taka in loan. How will we repay?”
The Forest Department filed a case against the leasing of the land in 2009. The case finally ended up in the SC.