High Court orders no more hill-cutting at Sajek

NEWS DESK

The High Court on Tuesday asked the government to form a monitoring team so that none could cut hills in tourist-belt regions of Sajek Valley in Rangamati without permission from the Department of Environment.

The High Court also directed the environment ministry secretary to investigate, by an officer not below the rank of joint secretary, if there was any negligence on the part of local administrations to protect hills at Sajek Valley and submit a report through an affidavit to the court.

The bench of Justice JBM Hassan and Justice Razik-Al-Jalil issued the directive to the environment and climate change ministry secretary, deputy commissioner of Chattogram, the department of environment director general, DoE’s director (Chattogram) and five other authorities of the local administration to carry out of the order of the court.

The bench issued directives after hearing a writ petition filed by the Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh, with a newspaper article, along with a picture, under a headline, swimming pool made after cutting hills in Sajek, which was published in Ajker Patrika on March 28.

HRBP’s lawyer Manzill Murshid said that the swimming pool could not be constructed following the High Court’s directive.

The report said that privately-run Meghpolli Resort had been constructing a 18/36ft long swimming pool with a cost of Tk 50 lakh, on a mountain top in Sajek about 1,800 feet above the sea level by cutting hills.

The report said that hills were being cut indiscriminately in the Sajek valley causing disasters and posing threats to ecological balance.

The High Court also issued a rule asking the nine authorities of the government to explain in four weeks why their failure to stop cutting hills at Baghaichari upazila in Rangamati would not be declared illegal.

The High Court further asked the authorities to explain why they would not be directed to restore the damaged hills to their original positions.

Lawyer Manzill Murshid told the High Court that an influential quarter has been damaging natural balance and ecology by cutting hills indiscriminately.

Manzill told the High Court that Section 6 Kha of the Environment conservation law 1995 prohibited cutting hills without permission.

But the authorities are not taking any action against the influential people responsible for cutting hills at Sajek Valley despite the media carried out the article about the hill cutting, Manzill added.

Earlier on January 31, 2023, the High Court asked the environment secretary, DoE’s DG, the DC of Chattogram and district superintendent of the police to explain in four weeks why their failure in stopping cutting hills and soil would not be declared illegal.

The court asked the Chattogram city mayor, the secretary, the land secretary, Chattogram divisional commissioner, Chattogram Development Authority chairman, Department of Environment director general and deputy commissioners of three hill districts to submit a list of hills.

In 2012, the High Court asked the government to take necessary measures to stop cutting of all hills in the three districts.

The court also asked the authorities concerned to stop deforestation and protect biodiversity in the hills.

The High Court issued the previous directives after hearing a writ petition filed by the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association in 2011 and 2012.

BELA’s chief executive and lawyer Syeda Rizwana Hasan, however, alleged that despite the court orders, government officials concerned took no steps to protect the hills.

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