Naogaon’s Altadighi: Lake cannot be protected by destroying the park

EditorialProthom Alo illustration

Prior to taking up any development project, the impact, reaction and outcome of it must be assessed beforehand. But it is noticed in many of the government projects that the damages actually surpass the benefits.

Questions have been raised about the ‘Restoration and conservation of biodiversity of Altadighi National Park by re-excavating Altadighi’ project in Naogaon’s Dhamoirhat upazila.

The difference between before and after the project being implemented is acutely evident in the report titled ‘Toltole Dighi Ekhon Morubhumi (Crystal-clear lake turns desert)’ published in Prothom Alo on 8 May.  

Before the re-excavation, there was a canopy of dense greenery surrounding Altadighi with thousands of trees around. The next image shows that the surrounding of the lake is devoid of trees, as if it’s a desert.

The re-excavation of the lake began in November last year at the cost of almost Tk 63.9 million (Tk 6.39 crore) under ‘Restoration and conservation of biodiversity of Altadighi National Park’ project with the funding of the Climate Change Trust Fund. Former forest minister Shahab Uddin inaugurated the project. It was announced national park in 2011.

According to forest department’s record, about 1,102 trees have been cut down in order to re-excavate the 1,100 metre long and 500 metre wide Altadighi lake. Locals however accuse that more than 3,000 trees have been chopped. Concerning officials claim that only eucalyptus and acacia trees have been cut down and they will be replaced by planting saplings of local species.

Environmentalists have long been saying that eucalyptus and acacia plants are harmful for the environment of Bangladesh. Now the question is why these trees that are harmful for the environment were planted in the first place?

Many have posted angry reactions on social media against cutting down trees in the name of re-excavating Altadighi lake. Environmentalists have protested too.

General secretary of Naogaon district committee of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA), Rafikul Islam said beautification lies within planting trees and not cutting them down. It took 15 to 20 years for the trees to grow that have been cut down. Yet they were destroyed within just seconds.

We are not against the lake re-excavation project. But that has to be done indeed by protecting the natural environment, meaning the national park. The practice of planting trees in the name or afforestation once and then cutting down the same tress in the name of excavating lake cannot go on. The amount of damage caused is many folds higher than the amount of money the forest department gained from selling the trees.

According to environmentalist, the lake could have been excavated using modern technology even without cutting down such a huge number of trees.

But without choosing that path the forest department has chosen the easy way of chopping down trees, which is in no way acceptable. Due to indiscriminate cutting down of trees, even the birds have been left unsheltered there.

In context of the news recently published in Prothom Alo, on 2,044 trees being fell in Jashore, the High Court has ruled on the question of setting up separate seven-member committees at the district and upazila levels including Dhaka to control the cutting of trees for saving the environment.

Where the High Court has issued a rule on cutting down trees, we consider indiscriminate felling of the tress of a national park an unforgivable crime. If there are some other evil intentions of some invested quarters behind this or not, needs to be investigated as well. The lake cannot be saved by destroying the park.

This type of destructive activities towards the environment cannot continue with the same funding from the Climate Change Trust Fund that has been provided for the protection of the environment. Let there be a fair and impartial investigation into the whole incident.

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