The natural beauty of Kuakata sea beach is threatened by land grabbers taking control of nearby reserved forests
The natural beauty of Kuakata sea beach is threatened by land grabbers taking control of nearby reserved forests Prothom Alo

Forest department land is being grabbed indiscriminately in Kuakata, the country’s the tourism hub of Patuakhali. The land grabbers are destroying forests and building houses. Some 329.6 acres of land have already been forcefully occupied. The forest department has prepared a list identifying 383 land grabbers.

Kuakata is a resort area of natural beauty. It’s the world’s lone sea beach where tourists can view both sunrise and sunset. A large forest lies next to the sea beach, replete with coconut trees and tamarind groves. The e mangrove forest too draws tourists. But forest areas are in decline as land grabbers take control, chopping down the trees and constructing buildings.

Patuakhali deputy commissioner Md Motiul Islam Chowdhury said the district administration has continued the eviction drive against the land grabbers. Drives will be conducted in Kuakata too as proposed by the forest department.

Sources in Patuakhali’s forest department said the Kuakata forest is located on 4,284.93 acres of land including 1,818.93 acres in the Latachapli mouza and 2,466 acres in the Gangamati mouza. The government declared the Kuakata forest area a national park in 2005. Every year the forest department creates gardens near the natural forest to make Kuakata more attractive to tourists. But land grabbers have snatched 329.6 acres, destroying the gardens including 213.15 acres in Latachapli mouza and 116.45 acres in Gangamati mouza.

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On 19 October last year, a meeting of the Standing Committee on Ministry of Environment Forest and Climate Change sought information on the state of the grabbed land, a list of the land grabbers and details on what steps have been taken to evict the grabbers. The meeting also said that forest department, ministry, and parliamentary standing committee would work together to recover the grabbed lands.

Following the parliamentary body’s instructions, the Patuakhali forest department sent a letter to the district administration requesting take necessary steps to evict the grabbers from the reserved forest areas.

Divisional officer of Patuakhali’s coastal forest department Mohammad Aminul Islam wrote a letter to the deputy commissioner on 25 November last year. It said, a list of the forest land grabbers along with the maps has been prepared in a bid to drive them out of the protected forest land in Latachapli and Gangamoti mouzas. The forest department is not aware of the measures taken to evict the grabbers. The parliamentary standing committee, at its 16th meeting, asked for updated information on land owned by forest department, the state of the land grabbing as well as measures related to eviction. The letter called for necessary measures to drive out the land grabbers.

The grabbers are very powerful. They destroyed the forest forcefully, occupied it and built houses. Forest department workers were being hurt after coming under attack for obstructing the grabbers
Md Abul Kalam, forest department’s Mohipur range officer

On recent visits, it was found that the grabbers were erecting building after cutting down trees in the reserved area in front of the main entrance of the forest department’s national park in Gangamoti area. A shallow tube well has been sunk since the salinity of water makes it unusable. Locals said, most of the dwellers are fishermen, many don’t own any land. However, some people reside there after grabbing land with the help of local influential persons.

Wishing anonymity, several people living on the forest land, said they used to live on the slopes of the Kuakatadam. They came here after being evicted from their previous settlement. Two residents – Rasel Akon and Rahima Begum - claimed that they owned the forest land adjacent to the sea beach.

The forest department’s Mohipur range officer Md Abul Kalam said, the grabbers are very powerful. They destroyed the forest forcefully, occupied it and built houses. Forest department workers were being hurt after coming under attack for obstructing the grabbers. A general diary was filed with Mohipur police station. They sent a list of the grabbers to the Patuakhali head office in a bid to recover the grabbed forest land.

Divisional forest officer Mohammad Aminul Islam said, a letter has been sent to the deputy commissioner to drive out the land grabbers. Besides, details on forest land grabbing have been sent to the concerned parliamentary standing committee through the Barishal coastal circle on 7 December last year.

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