The Appellate Division has cancelled an order the High Court division pronounced four years ago allowing a union parishad chairman, Selim Khan, to extract sand from shoals of Meghna river in 21 mouzas in Sadar and Haimchar upazilas in Chandpur district.
The three-member Appellate Division bench headed by Chief Justice Hasan Foez Siddique pronounced the order Sunday. Two other members of the bench are Justice Obaidul Hassan and Justice M. Enayetur Rahim.
As a result of this verdict Selim Khan’s sand extraction in the 21 mouzas to remain stopped, said deputy attorney general Kazi Mainul Hasan.
Md Selim Khan is the chairman of No. 10 Lakshmipur union parishad in Chandpur Sadar upazila. Holding a hearing on his writ on 5 April 2018, a High Court bench ordered the Chandpur deputy commissioner and other defendants to allow Selim Khan to extract 86.30 cubic metres (30 crore 48 lakh cubic feet) of sand from shoals of Meghna river in 21 mouzas in Chandpur district.
Four years since the verdict, the state filed a leave to appeal in March. A hearing was held on the appeal on 4 April. A chamber judge stayed the High Court order and sent the leave to appeal to the regular bench of Appellate Division for hearing.
Deputy attorney general Kazi Mainul Hasan represented the state in the court while senior lawyer Ajmalul Hossain QC moved for Selim Khan.
In 2015, Selim Khan filed a writ petition seeking court directives to conduct a hydrographic survey in 21 mouzas in Sadar and Haimchar upazilas in Chandpur district for the sake of people, reveals documents. The writ was filed to activate a route for water transport. The High Court issued a rule after holding a primary hearing on the writ on 9 July that year. Following this, on 15 December 2015, the HC hold hearing on another appeal by Selim Khan and ordered the defendants to allow Selim Khan to get a hydrography survey report within 30 days.
Later, on 5 April 2018, the High Court settled the ruling holding final hearing. Mentioning a 31 January 2018 letter of hydrography department the verdict said, this proves that there is enough sand/soil in those mouzas and there is no bar to extract those. Neither the defendants (land affairs secretary, shipping secretary, BIWTA chairman, Chandpur deputy commissioner and hydrography department director) submitted any answer (affidavit) to the court so that the matter seemed credible.
A hydrographic survey is used to ascertain how far the extractable sand/mud exists at the river bed. A hydrographic survey is a must before extracting sand from shoals.
Prothom Alo on 2 March ran a report about the threat of river erosion and environmental risks due to extraction of sand from Meghna river in Chandpur. Officials of the environment department and Bangladesh Fisheries Research Institute said several spots of Chandpur town protection embankment have caved in and eroded because of random sand extraction from Meghna river. The breeding of hilsa fish is also under threat. On the other hand, Selim Khan was earning about Tk 300 million (30 crore) every month from the sand extraction.
Following the report, the state on 15 March filed a leave to appeal to the Appellate Division of the Supreme Court seeking stay of the High Court order that the Appellate Division settled today.
Leave to appeal mentioned several provisions from Balumahal and Soil Management Law on announcement and abolishing of balumahal (sand areas), leasing these sand areas, and extraction of sand or soil without taking lease and collection of revenue.
The leave to appeal order said the High Court could not realise that according to the Balumahal and Soil Management Law, hydrographic survey report is not the only basis of sand extraction from any river. According to the Balumahal and Soil Management Law, concerned deputy commissioner will take opinions of concerned authorities about whether the extraction would harm the environment and any government establishment (like bridges, culverts, roads, ferry terminals, markets, tea-gardens, river embankment etc.) and residential area or cause landslide or change the course of river or any large water body. Besides, the deputy commissioner can send a proposal to the divisional commissioner to cancel the balumahal if there is not enough extractable sand or mud at any balumahal, or if there is any possibility of harm of nature and ecology for sand or soil extraction or important government establishment, or public interests.
The leave to appeal said no evaluation was made from the office of Chandpur deputy commissioner about extraction of sand from shoals in Chandpur. Even the divisional commissioner did not announce the mouzas mentioned in the writ as balumahal. That’s why the High Court order about sand extraction to Selim Khan can be annulled.