Credible environmental impact assessment a must –

Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Published: 00:00, Sep 21,2021
IN RECENT months, environmentally-conscious citizens across the country have been expressing concern about the development projects that the government has taken without considering the ecological cost. In May, under a project titled ‘Shawdhinata Stambha Construction Project in Dhaka’, the public works department began cutting down trees with ecological and historic significance at the Suhrawardy Udyan. After facing backlash from different organisations and green activists, the department said it cut down trees upon directives of the Liberation War affairs ministry for the implementation of the mega project at the historic site. The High Court on Sunday while rejecting a petition filed by six rights organisations directed the government to protect the biodiversity of the park while implementing the project. Referring to a 2009 directive, the court has also asked the government to remove all kinds of structures from the park and reminded the government of its constitutional obligation to protect historical and ecological heritages. Green activists welcomed the High Court decision but remained concerned as the court order allowed construction in the park without saying anything specifically about tree-cutting.
In another similar move, the parliamentary standing committee on the ministry of environment, forest and climate change on Sunday asked the authorities concerned to review the decision on constructing a public administration academy on forestland in Cox’s Bazar. Despite opposition from the locals, the land ministry has leased out 700 acres of protected land which is home to at least 58 species of trees and endangered animals. The parliamentary body said the lease was granted ignoring the forest department’s objection and in violation of the national forest policy. Their decision is a much-needed intervention, but it raises serious questions about the environmental impact assessment process which is a pre-requisite to the approval of any such project. A credible impact assessment, as many green activists say, would have prevented the government from approving such ecologically suicidal projects. For example, the government initiative to build a hospital via public-private partnership at Chattogram Railway Building area is facing protests on grounds of potential environmental damage. Although protesters said the project would have an adverse impact on the environment due to the felling of a number of century-old trees, railways officials said the environment will not be affected. All these projects are glaring examples of the government’s ecologically insensitive development plans.
Bangladesh as a signatory to the Sustainable Development Goals was obliged to stop deforestation by 2020 and is obliged to have 20 per cent of the landmass in forested land by 2030. The government must, therefore, ensure that the construction work at the Suhrawardy Udyan diligently follows the High Court directive. It must investigate the allegation that the public administration academy on protected forestland in Cox’s bazaar was approved in violation of relevant policies and laws. The government, more importantly, must also prioritise credible environmental impact assessment in development planning and reforestation in its development policies.
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Editor: Nurul Kabir, Published by the Chairman, Editorial Board ASM Shahidullah Khan on behalf of Media New Age Ltd.
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