The nearly century-old forest act-1927 is needed to be widely reformed as the existing law could not work as a safeguard to protect the country’s forest lands, said a new study of the Transparency International, Bangladesh (TIB).
The 93-year-old forest act does not mention the definition of forest, type of forest, forest conservation process, and also does not mention the process of allocation of the forest land for development work and necessary rules are also missing to this end.
The watchdog, TIB, made the remarks in its study disclosed on Wednesday at a virtual press conference.
Besides, due to loopholes in the existing law, there are opportunities to use forest lands in an ill manner.
Although there is an outline for establishing government control over forest lands, there are no directives in the law about the process of restoring and reclaiming grabbed forest lands, TIB added.
The neighbouring countries do have supplementary laws to fill the gaps in the forest law, but Bangladesh has yet enacted anything to protect its forest lands.
Wildlife (Conservation and Security) Act-2012 also does not specify what will be done to restore and to protect the endangered wildlife in the environment.
Saw-Mill (License) Rules-2012 also gives an opportunity to set up and operate a saw-mill in a municipal area which poses a risk of theft of protected forest trees.
The annual target of revenue collection from the forest lands is about Tk. 1 billion is one of the major obstacles to forest protection as it creates opportunities and risks of uncontrolled corruption, including in destroying the government forest lands, the study read.
There are allegations that some forest officials are involved in corruption in the name of revenue collection, such as deforestation, social forestry, rubber plantations, eco-tourism, leasing, land leases, timber sales, and so on.
Meanwhile, there is a serious lack of infrastructure and logistics support in the institutional capacity of the Forest Department.
Although a total of 0.28453 million acres of forest lands has been illegally grabbed till December 2019, while the forest department has so far been able to recover only 3 per cent of the total forcibly occupied forest lands in the last five years.
TIB recommended that the forest act needs to be reformed, and the revenue collection from the forest sector should be stopped immediately.