The Daily Star – No bail for tree plundering

(Written by Hasan Jahid Tusher)

23 December 2009 – PM wants new law with provision to punish offender, buyer; prior permission to be made mandatory

Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina asked authorities concerned to draft a new law with stringent provisions for taking action against people responsible for rampant tree felling.

The prime minister instructed them to include a non-bailable section there so that offenders cannot get bail from courts in cases filed in connection with tree felling, according to sources at the Prime Minister’s Office.

She also suggested that a provision be kept for awarding punishment not only against the offenders but also the people who buy or use those trees.

Sources said the prime minister desired another provision in the new law making it mandatory for people to take prior permission from authorities concerned for cuting down a tree at any green place.

PMO sources said the prime minister was unhappy with the continuing felling of trees in different places in the country and asked the ministries concerned to take legal actions against people responsible regardless of their political affiliations and identities.

Prime Minister’s Press Secretary Abul Kalam Azad also reaffirmed The Daily Star that the prime minister has given the directives.

A group of influential and powerful people chopped down about 20,000 trees in Pirganj upazila of Rangpur on Saturday and Sunday nights.

Last month, a group of influential people including a son of a ruling-party lawmaker had as many as 15,000 trees cut down in Sitakunda of Chittagong. They also felled some 5,000 more trees across a half-a-kilometre stretch of the forest belt at Sonaichhari coast under Sitakunda upazila.

In September, at least 30,000 Jhau (tamarisk) trees were chopped down by a section of local influential people in Teknaf beach of Cox’s Bazar and the forest department remained a silent spectator.

Azad said the prime minister sincerely wants to preserve and develop Bangladesh’s forests and green places understanding the consequences of climate change.

Talking to The Daily Star, State Minister for Forest and Environment Hasan Mahmud said the government is determined to take tough actions against those who are felling trees and even if ruling-party men were involved, they would not be spared. Chief of the all-party parliamentary group on climate change and environment Saber Hossain Chowdhury said Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina’s commitment to protect Bangladesh’s environment would be made clear through the new law.

He, however, said there must be full implementation of the law and strict vigilance to protect the country’s forests and green places.

Saber, also a member of the parliamentary standing committee on forest and environment ministry, said there is lack of forest policing and manpower. Satellites could be utilised for forest vigilance, which has been introduced in different countries.

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