The authorities of a private tea garden allegedly cut down around 1,000 trees at a punji (village) in Moulvibazar’s Kulaura upazila without permission from Forest Department.
Executive committee members of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon (BAPA) confirmed the development after visiting Kakra Chhara Punji area yesterday.
Talking to out Moulvibazar correspondent, Sharif Jamil, general secretary of BAPA central executive committee, said that while visiting Rehana Tea Garden and adjoining area, the team found that around 1,000 trees of the punji have already been felled by the tea garden authorities.
If the tree felling continues, it will leave a negative impact on the environment, he said.
Residents of the punji claimed that the tea garden has occupied at least 20 jhum farming lands and cultivated tea on those for the last seven to eight years.
The authorities have also shut down the main road used by the residents, they alleged.
Binita Rema, a resident of the punji, said that villagers guard a local church at night — fearing that the tea garden authorities might occupy it also.
Another resident, Addruen Marlia, said many of their neighbours have already moved out in face of the tea garden authorities’ threats.
John Paul Chichhim, head of the Kakra Chhara punji, said they are feeling helpless as the tea garden is grabbing jhum cultivation land one after another.
“The tea garden authorities used to threaten us if we informed the local administration about their land grabbing. We have proper land documents,” he said.
Talking to this correspondent, Manager of Rehana Tea Garden, AK Azad, said that all the land where trees have been felled belong to the tea garden. None of these lands have been leased out to anyone. “They (residents) are lying,” he said.
“No jhum land was occupied,” he claimed.
The tea garden authorities are cultivating tea after cutting some plants on some additional land, following Bangladesh Tea Board’s policy.
GM Abu Bakar Siddique, assistant forest conservator, Moulvibazar Forest Department, said the tea garden authorities sought permission for cutting trees on their land. But no permission was given for cutting trees of the punji, he said.
Kulaura Upazila Nirbahi Officer ATM Farhad Chowdhury said, “I have asked both sides to maintain law and order in the area. We are trying to settle the issue.