June 24, 2024, 12:17 pm

5000 acres of forest land grabbed in Naogaon

  • Update Time : Monday, June 10, 2024
  • 10 Time View

NAOGAON CORRESPONDENT:

The forest department in Naogaon has lost control of one-third of its land across the country with people building houses and shops, growing mango trees and cultivating crops.

The names of leaders from the Awami League and the Bangladesh Nationalist Party (BNP), as well as teachers and general people, have come up on the list of land encroachers.

People concerned said there is no sign of stopping land grabbing since the administration has no effective initiative to recover the lands.

According to data from the forest department, locals grabbed about 5,000 acres of forest land over the last 60 years. Though authorities received the list of land encroachers several times, no large-scale eviction drive was launched.

The forest department often filed cases to recover the land, but lawsuits remained pending in court for years. As the grabbing of forest land has continued decade after decade, forests are vanishing, nature and the environment are being destroyed and wild animals and insects are becoming extinct.

One-third of land grabbed:

About 80 per cent of Nagaon’s forest land is in Pantitala and Dhamoirhat upazilas, and the forest department operates in five beats under the Paikbanda and Sapahar ranges. According to the forest department, there are 17683.26 acres of forest land in the district and the forest department has lost control of 5,195 acres or one-third of total forest land. A total of 2,143 grabbed forest lands ranging from a minimum of 5 decimals to a maximum of 12 acres.

Sources said once Altadighi National Park in Naogaon’s Dhamoirhat Sadar union, Isabpur, Shihara of Patnitala, Nirmail and Dibar union, Shironti of Sapahar and Nitpur of Porsha was natural forest land. Poor people from Chapainawabganj and India’s South Dinajpur started arriving in the Shihara, Nirmail, Altadighi and Ishabpur areas in the 1960s and they started living near forest lands. They then began building houses on forest lands.

Locals said poor people started living on forest land in collusion with forest department people, but locals prepared fake documents later and claimed ownership of forest land

Poor people from Chapainawabganj and India’s South Dinajpur started arriving in the Shihara, Nirmail, Altadighi and Ishabpur areas in the 1960s and they started living near forest lands. They then began building houses on forest lands.

In the court:

There are 4,468 acres of forest land in 77 mouzas in Shihara, Nirmail and Dibar union parishads, but 986 people have encroached 1,776 acres of this land. Tofazzel Hossain is one of them whose name has come up for encroaching land. He is the chairman of the Shihara union parishad and president of BNP’s Shihara union unit.

Asked, Tofazzel Hossain said, “We have a case pending at the court with the forest department over 12 bighas of land. The forest department claimed this land was theirs and gazette for them. Now it will be proved at the court who actually owns it.”

Eight people including Abul Kamal Azad, who is the chairman of Nirmail union parishad and vice-president of Awami League’s Nirmail union unit, face allegations of grabbing 3.7 acres of land that belongs to the forest department in Patul mouza. A case filed by the forest department against them is pending at the court. Abul Kamal Azad said, “There are very few families in our area who face no lawsuit from the forest department.”

No land sale in 6 mouzas since 1994:

According to sources at the land office of Pantitala’s Dibor union, a gang issued land mutation for personal ownership by tempering the volume of the forest department’s land and 300 acres of khash land in Patul, Gurkhi, Sital and Tepukuria of Shihara union of the upazila and Shalkuri and Kaikuri mauzas of Nirmail union.

The gang members grabbed the forest land and khash land in 1994, and 5,000 people who were beneficiaries of these lands submitted a memorandum to the deputy commissioner at the time.

The administration then seized the record of rights and other documents of 936.66 acres of land in these mouzas. As cases were filed over the matter, the then-deputy commissioner imposed an injunction on the purchase and sale, and handover of lands in these six mouzas as per the court order.

Land grabbing continues:

Visiting the Halakandar area of Shihara union in Pantitala upazila, semi-concrete and tin-shed houses were seen 400-500 metres away from the Paikbanda forest beat office.

Paikbanda beat officer Ahmed Ali Mandal said those two houses were constructed on forest lands over the last one and a half years and certain Saiful Islam and Akkas Ali raised the houses clearing the forest trees. When forest officers tried to prevent they showed land documents and claimed they purchased these pieces of land. Yet, this land is gazetted in favour of the forest department and cases are pending at the court over this matter.

Ahmed Ali Mandal claimed it has not been possible to recover the land because of the delay in the disposal of the case. Currently, 21 cases are pending at the court against 14 people from Halakandar mouza. Besides, educational establishments and bazaars have been built on forest land and there is no alternative to lawsuits to recover these lands.

Dhamairhat beat officer Anisur Rahman said information on the grabbed land and the grabbers are sent to respective range officers and divisional forest officers every month. Several cases are underway absent grabbers and cases continue year after year. Lawsuits are not settled and no land is recovered either.

Rajshahi divisional forest officer Md Rafiquzzaman Shah said it is not possible to recover these lands without the involvement or assistance of the respective district administration. Information relating to encroached land and grabbers has been sent to the deputy commissioner of Naogaon recently to launch an eviction drive.

Deputy commissioner Md Golam Mowla, however, said he had no conversation with any official of the forest decampment recently on this matter. No list of land encroachers has arrived either, but he can provide details after looking into the matter.

 

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