The government land and forest are declared national park for the development and conservation of plant and animal diversity-enriched areas. Though Lawachara of Moulvibazar has been given the status of national park, but wild animals are still unsafe there. Rare and endangered animals are being killed in the road through the forest.
The Sreemangal-Bhanugach (Kamalganj) road is located inside the park. Some 200 to 300 vehicles ply on the 6.5 kilometres road daily. Wild animals cross the road throughout the day and night. Their movement increases at night. Wild animals often die after being hit by speedy vehicles. There has been demand for and discussion on an alternative road for long but it remains limited to plan.
According to sources at Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division, the area of this evergreen and mixed evergreen forest is 1,250 hectares. Different rare, endangered and near extinct animals including gibbon, monkey, various species of snakes, junglefowl, pangolin, barking deer, fishing cat, wild boar and python live here. Two rare capped langurs were killed by vehicles on the road kill on 7 and 23 January. A porcupine died on 28 October last year after being hit by vehicle.
According to forest officials concerned, 40 to 50 wild animals die on roads and rail tracks stretching through the park.
Convener of Lawachara Forest and Biodiversity Protection Movement Joly Paul told Prothom Alo, ”Lawachara forest is very important for environment, ecology and biodiversity in this region. We have long been demanding for the construction of alternative roads and railway tracks. We must keep in mind that forest and wild animals are for the necessity of the human being.”
According to sources at the forest department and the local government engineering department (LGED), what to do to conserve Lawachara National Park, Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary and Ratargul Swamp Forest was discussed at a review meeting of the Prime Minister’s Office on 2 July 2017. The meeting had decided to build alternative roads outside Lawachara.
Last year, LGED prepared a project tilted “widening and upgrading roads at district, upazila and union level of greater sylhet district.” It proposed to construct a 14-kilometre alternation road to Sreemangal-Bhanugach road at a budget of Tk 300 million (30 crore).
Executive engineer of the LGED head office Iqbal Ahmed, who is responsible for overseeing the project, told Porthom Alo, “The project has been submitted to the planning ministry. Process is on to place it in the pre-ECNEC meeting. We will start constructing roads after the ECNEC’s approval.”
Sylhet divisional forest officer Md Rezaul Karim Chowdhury said there are many rare and endangered animals in the park. If the alternative road is built, wild animals will be saved. They are getting in touch (with authorities concerned) repeatedly for constructing the alternative road. At present, efforts are made to limit the speed of vehicles, he added.
*This report appeared in the print edition of Prothom Alo and has been rewritten in English by Hasanul Banna