Illegal occupation of forestland now a serious threat to wildlife

BNCA finds occupants’ involvement in elephant killing during its shadow investigation in Sherpur

Illegal occupation of forestland across the country has become a serious threat to the wildlife, including elephants, as the illegal occupants carry out wildlife killing in a planned way to grab the forestland.

The Bangladesh Nature Conservation Alliance (BNCA), a united platform of 33 environmental organisations, found the involvement of illegal occupants in the elephant killing during a ‘shadow investigation’ in Sherpur.

The BNCA launched the ‘shadow investigation’ into the recent incidents of elephant killings.

As part of the shadow investigation, a six-member team of the alliance, led by convener of the alliance and joint secretary of Bangladesh Paribesh Andolan (BAPA) Prof Dr Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder, visited some spots of elephant killing in Sherpur district on December 17 and 18.

Other members of the ‘shadow investigation’ team are– Secretary General of Save Our Sea (SOS) Muhammad Anowarul Hoque, member of the convening committee of BNCA journalist Kefayet Shakil, president of Green Fighting Movement President Nabil Ahmed, chairman of Green Movement Bappi Sardar and Finance Director Nilufar Yasmin (Rupa).

Alongside the visit, the team members held meetings with local representatives, Deputy Commissioner (DC), Superintendent of Police (SP), officials of Sherpur Forest Department.

After the two-day investigation, the BNCA team held a press conference at Sherpur Press Club in the afternoon on Saturday (December 18).

Speaking at the press conference, Prof Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder said that they had also conducted shadow investigation in Cox’s Bazar before Sherpur. The BNCA will hold a press conference in Dhaka and publish the full report of the shadow investigation.

About the preliminary information obtained from the shadow investigation, he said, “We have tried to talk to all the quarters concerned. According to preliminary information, the forest department fails to protect forest, forestland and wildlife. Illegal occupation of forestland has become a serious threat to wildlife, including elephants. Our verification has found evidence of the involvement of illegal occupants in the elephant killing. However, the power department is also responsible in this regard as they have clearly violated the law by connecting electricity to illegal occupants of forestland.”

The head of the shadow investigation team further said that the forest department had introduced solar fencing system through elephant control project, but now it has no effect. They try to protect the forest and wildlife through different projects, and when the projects are over, the forest also becomes insecure. The same thing happened in Sherpur. Shortage of elephant food in the forest also another reason. Moreover, people who spend money on various projects in the name of public awareness don’t have much knowledge about wildlife conservation.

Prof Ahmad Kamruzzaman Majumder also placed some suggestions on forest and wildlife conservation. These are to arrange for a judicial inquiry into the elephant killings; to ensure speedy trial of those involved in elephant poaching; resettlement of illegal occupants on khas land; the main responsibility of the forest department should be to set a regular budget for wildlife conservation, not through projects; illegal power lines in the forest must be disconnected; providing adequate manpower to the Forest Department and increasing financial benefits to the Elephant Response Team; the media needs to be heavily involved in the protection of forests and wildlife.

The Bangladesh Nature Conservation Alliance (BNCA) was formed on November 24 in 2021 to protest the failure of the forest department to save wildlife, including elephants. A total of 33 environmental organisations came under the fold of the alliance with the promise of working to protect the environment, forest and wildlife of the country.

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