Reza Mahmud :
TThe tribal armed gangs are looting thousands of trees from the reserve forests in Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), leaving a very adverse impact on the environment. Besides, the terrorists have burned many hills to prepare those for Jhum cultivations. But the officials of forest department have expressed their helplessness in these regards.
“It is really hard to protect the reserve forests in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. We have sent the reports to the competent authorities for necessary action,” said Baghaighat Range Officer Syed Golam Shahid.
Some other officials on condition of not to be named said, “There is another government in the Chittagong Hill Tracts. The forest officials cannot inspect all areas of the reserve forests in the CHT areas. They seek consent from the tribal armed terrorist gangs to visit the forests. The terrorists are selling the trees of the reserve forest without any obstacle.”
According to the Forest Department, the reserve forests have 15, 66,935 acres of land of which 46,476 acres are in Baghaihat range, where no big trees were found when this correspondent visited the area recently. The 34 kilometres long Baghaihat to Sajek valley has now lots of illegal houses built by the tribal people.
Apart from these, the correspondent visited the areas of Guimara, Sajek, Kasalong, Baghaihat, Baghaichhari, Mohalchhari, Burighat and other areas of the CHT recently and found many hills free of green trees.
Experts say that the reserve forests of the CHT are being deforested day by day. It has damaged the natural beauty of the region, considered a potential tourist spot. As a result, the biodiversity of the area is at risk. It also hampers environment seriously. Besides, the peaceful people are losing natural resources.
The local people said that the armed terrorist groups of JSS, JSS (reformists) and UPDF are behind the forests lootings.
The armed terror groups are selling the trees and bamboos of the reserve forests, earning lots of money and buying arms. They have made the hill unstable.
The armed groups are sheltering their party men to build houses in the hilly lands. And to prepare the hills for houses, they are cutting huge trees. Now few hills beside the roads and bazaars are found with some trees, but other hills situated at a few distance from the roads are empty.
One of the officials of Baghaihat range said there are 10 to 12 forest employees there. They have no arms. But the miscreants who are looting the trees have modern firing arms.
“How we can stop the armed groups from cutting the trees while they have modern foreign weapons,” said one of the forest officials of the area.
He also said, if anyone tries to prevent tree looting, he will be either abducted or killed. So the forest officials working there enter into negotiations with the armed groups. They said many forest officials became victims of torture of the tribal terrorists.
Rabiul Islam, Range Officer of Shuvlong Range was kidnapped by the tribal terrorists in 2014. He was rescued after 17 to 18 days when the Army went into action. The Army stands guard against the terrorism in the hilly areas.
In these circumstances, the officials keep themselves away from showing any disparity to visit the reserve forests without getting permissions from the armed tribal groups.
Mantua Chakma, a resident of Kasalong area, said, many tribal people are now building houses in reserve forest areas near the roads. “We are now leaving the remote areas as the armed terrorist groups have made our lives hell by torturing in various ways.”
When contacted, Sayeed Tarikul Hassan, the Superintendent of Police of Rangamati Hill District said, “The police are always ready to catch any culprits in the area. If anyone informs us about the presence of the terrorist groups’ we shall take action.”