Tea garden at cost of trees, animals and hills

Forest department covering up crimes, allege locals, environmentalists
This place was covered with century-old trees only a few weeks ago. But a tea estate has completely cleared the area by setting it ablaze. Now hills are being razed and tea saplings are being planted on the leveled surface. Photo: Star

A tea estate in Habiganj has completely cleared their leased land by setting it ablaze and cutting down the trees, much to the dismay of environmentalists and wildlife activists.

Hundreds of workers are now working round the clock to plant tea saplings in the cleared area near the Hatimara church.

Besides, the hills of the area are now being razed to make them suitable for tree plantation.

Contacted, Moin Uddin, manager of Hatimara Tea Garden, said, "We are cutting hills on our leased area to make it plain. There are no wild animals here."

Khalilur Rahman, a forest department official, said, "The hills that the garden authorities are cutting are on their land. So we have nothing to say."

Hatimara Tea Garden took the lease of the land near Rema-Kalenga Wildlife Sanctuary in Habiganj's Chunarughat upazila some years ago. The sanctuary was a safe habitat for wildlife and hosted century-old trees.

On January 19, the tea estate decided to expand its garden by setting trees in the leased area on fire. The fire spread over to the wildlife sanctuary, killing dozens of animals and destroying countless century-old trees, locals alleged.

During a recent visit to the place, this correspondent found proof of the devastation as he saw charred bodies of capped langurs, barking deer, Indian civets, hilly mynas, squirrels, herons and countless other wildlife lying all over the sanctuary.

'Nobody killed the animals'

However, an investigative team of the forest department said there was no evidence of wildlife burning. Locals and environmentalists, on the other hand, slammed the report by saying they were not interviewed.

Khalilur Rahman, who headed the probe body, said, "We have investigated the allegations and talked to local tea workers. We did not find any proof of the allegations."

"A probe body of the forest department is investigating the matter. Only they can tell the truth. I have nothing to say beyond that," said tea estate manager Moin Uddin.

Nasir Uddin Khan, a village doctor of Daragaon area, said," I go to Hatimara tea garden almost every day. I have seen the burnt corpses of many animals after the wildfire. Many century-old trees have been uprooted."

"Rather than conserving wildlife, the forest department is taking the side of the perpetrators. This is regrettable," he added.

Robi Costa, coordinator of Mita Foundation, a nature and local environmental organisation, said, "The forest department investigated the matter without interviewing any experts. Only tea workers were interviewed. They will not speak up against the tea estate as their job is on the line."

"When I wanted to speak with the probe body, they refused. I was even threatened by the tea estate officials for talking to journalists," he added.

Tofazzal Sohel, general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon's Habiganj unit, said, "The garden authorities have cut down at least 150 trees from three hills in the church area, most of which are 50 to 100 years old."

"Various species of wildlife have been burnt by the fire initiated by the tea estate. Having lost their permanent habitat, many animals are now at risk of falling into the hands of poachers," he added.


৫০-১০০ বছর বয়সী ২ হাজার ৩৭৯টি গাছ কেটে সড়ক ‘উন্নয়ন’
৩ ঘণ্টা আগে|বাংলাদেশ

শতবর্ষীসহ ২ হাজার ৩৭৯ গাছ কেটে সড়ক ‘উন্নয়ন’

টাঙ্গাইল শহরের কাগমারী মোড় থেকে শ্মশান ঘাট পর্যন্ত রাস্তার দুপাশে গাছ কাটা চলছে।