Forest department bars, work begins after minister issues DO letter

Construction work of road through Lathitila reserved forest is underway
Prothom Alo

Contravening the Forest Department letter to an official of Local Government Engineering Department (LGED), the construction work of a road through the Lathitila reserved forest in Juri upazila of Moulvibazar has been going on for the last few days. The letter was sent to the LGED official as the department did not take any permission for the construction work from the concerned authorities earlier.

LGED’s Juri upazila office engineer Abdul Matin said they did not know that the road was in the forest area.

The tender of the work was floated following a DO (demi official) letter by Environment, Forest and Climate Change minister Md Shahab Uddin, also an MP of Moulvibazar-1 (Barlekha and Juri upazilas) constituency.

Speaking to Prothom Alo, LGED’s Moulvibazar office executive engineer Azim Uddin Sardar said after the objections of the Forest Department, upazila engineer talked to the Environment, Forest and Climate Change affairs minister about this. The construction has begun as per the advice of the minister.

A visit to the area on Saturday found that a section of around 200 metres of the previously existing mud road has been dug up with an excavator. A large pile of brick is there at a side. Local people said the work has begun 2-3 days ago.

Some forest villager families reside in that part of the reserved forest. Some of them said it will be a great help for them if the road is carpeted.

Regarding beginning the work despite the Forest Department’s objections, Saidul Islam, owner of Paradise Construction, the firm that is constructing the road, said the process of taking permission from the concerned ministry is underway.

LGED and Forest Department sources said the LGED called for tender for one kilmotre road from Lathichhara to Rupachhara through Lalchhara in Lathitila reserved forest area in Goalbari union in Juri. A local firm, Paradise Construction, got the work that would cost Tk 9.6 million.

As per the work order, the firm was asked to begin the work on 2 April and to complete by 29 September. Recently, the workers of the firm began the work. When the Forest Department came to know about it, the forester at Lathitila, Salah Uddin, sent a letter to LGED’s upazila engineer and requested not to adopt and implement any development activities in the reserved forest area.

Prothom Alo on 17 April ran a report about LGED’s intention to construct a road through the reserved forest.

Forest Department said the size of Lathitila forest is 5,630.40 acres. A rich forest, Lathitila, houses different types of flora and fauna.

Forest Department’s Juri range officer Md Alauddin said nobody took their permission before contructing the road through Lathitila forest. It would tough to protect the teak groves in the area if the road is contracted there. Movement of wood smugglers will increase. Besides, there is a direction from the Prime Minister’s Office about taking any development project in the forest areas. They are yet to get any written directives about the road, he added.

Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Md Shahab Uddin told Prothom Alo that the LGED’s upazila engineer informed him about the Forest Department’s objections. It would be beneficial for the people of the road is constructed, he added.

The minister further said he would talk to the Sylhet divisional forest department official so that there is no bar in construction of the road.