Dhaka, Bangladesh
Illegal firewood business rampant in Rangamati

Illegal firewood business rampant in Rangamati

Forest department authority turns blind eye

Our Correspondent RANGAMATI, Jan 12: Illegal firewood business is going on unabated under the very nose of concerned Chittagong Hill Tracts South Forest Division in Rangamati district over the past couple of months, denuding evergreen hilly natural as well as government reserve forests, disappearing wildlife, depriving the government from huge amount of revenue. Indiscriminately cutting down of precious small tress from the natural and government reserve forests is rampant everywhere in the district. There was a strong nexus of many in the wrongdoings and plundering of forest resources including forest office, police, political parties and few local timber merchants' samities in Rangamati. Few timber traders, wishing anonymity from Manikchhari told this correspondent that a local reserve seat parliament member allegedly oversee the overall illegal firewood business. A seven member syndicate of dishonest traders in connivance with some dishonest forest officials of CHT South Forest Division involved in the illegal business for long time in Rangamati. The syndicate led by Liton Barua, a union parishad member of Sapchhari union and president of Sapchhari union unit of Awami League under Rangamati sadar upzila. The other members of the syndicate are former vice president of Rangamati sadar upazila unit Bangladesh Chhatra League (BCL) Md. Mustafiz, president of Manikchhari Kath O Jalani Kath Babsayee Kalyan Samity Nurul Islam Saudagor, its vice president Md. Usuf, secretary Md. Sagir Ahmmed, president of Manikchhari Ekata Samity Abu Bakkar Mollah and a Sapchhari union Juba Dal leader Md. Bancha, said sources. CHT South Forest Divisional Officer Towfiqul Islam, his assistant conservator of forest Abu Musa Shamsul Muhit Chowdhury (recently transferred) and his sadar range officer Mohammed Golam Kibria were allegedly backing the illegal business from the back stage as part of a deal in the nexus with the dishonest traders, on condition of anonymity, said some traders at Manikchhari. Sadar range office of CHT south forest division Golam Kibria said a total of 72,000 cft firewood was given permission through issuing transport pass (TP) under the process of Compoundable Report (COR) last year. This tear we issued 69 TP for 12750 cft and seized six firewood loaded jeeps, said Kibria. However, non official sources claimed that giving permission for 72,000 cft was merely an eye wash and more than 3 to 4 lakhs cfts had been sold out and transported illegally previous year. According to non official record approximately 2 to 3 lakhs cft illegal firewood has already sold out in this season. Traders alleged that around Tk 1 crore goes to the pockets of the forest officials of sadar range office of CHT South Forest Division in every season merely from illegal firewood trade. Visiting Manikchhari recently by a group of journalists it was found that illegal firewood are being stocked on an area around two kilometers at Manikchhari depot beside Kaptai Lakes' bank where thousands of cubic feet (CFT) of illegal different species of firewood loaded with local engine boats was also arriving at the depot everyday from different areas in the district. "We sell Tk 35 per mound (40 kilogram) of firewood to the traders and I don't know how much they sell it in higher price to third party," said Aungsa Marma at Manikchhari depot who took at least 500 cfts firewood by his boat from Jibtali in sadar upzila. Around fifty percent firewood timbers were seen precious teak, Koroi, Chanpalish and Gamar with other wild species in 10 to 15 places. Day laboureres Babul Hossain, Mizanur Rahman and Jamal at Manikchhari depot told the visiting journalists that they do the works of unload firewood from engine boats and load on jeeps almost every night and about 50 to 60 firewood laden jeep goes from the depot to outside. The illegal firewood were stolen every night from Manikchhari to Moghachhari via Rangamati-Chittagong road and Ghagra College and Ghagra Bazar inside routes said a local leader Suvas Chakma at Ghagra. Around 3 to 4 lakhs CFTs of firewood have already been smuggled from the depot at Manikchhari in last October to December this year. About 4 lakhs cft such illegal firewood was stolen similarly last year, said different sources. On condition of anonymity, a syndicate member told this correspondent that they running their illegal business since the very beginning by bribing officials in forest office, police, local timber samities and few political parties. CHT South Forest Divisional Officer Towfiqul Islam said that he has no information about transporting firewood illegally at night from Manikchhari.

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