There are allegations against Sunamganj District Forest Office of embezzling the money allocated for forestation in Tanguar Haor to mitigate the adverse effects of climate.
According to locals, the forest department is replanting naturally grown older trees in Fanarbagh near Ikoir Lake in the allocated area. All the replanted trees have died.
They allege that the forestry officials did this to keep the allocated project budget for themselves instead of spending it on forestation.
Forest Department sources said, in FY2021-22 the government allocated about Tk 33 lakh under the “Reforestation and infrastructure development in Sylhet Forest Division to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change” project to plant various species of trees including mango-pine, pongame oiltree, garlic pear, earleaf acacia, arjun, burflower and pithali tree in different areas of Tanguar Haor to mitigate the adverse effects of climate change.
However, no new saplings have been planted in designated areas of afforestation. Furthermore, the replanted trees taken from Fanarbagh have all died.
According to related sources, in FY2021-22, the government allocated about Tk 32,40,000 at Tk 18 per tree to plant Tk 1,80,000 for the project. In FY2022-23, an additional allocation of Tk 12,000 per hectare has been allocated for the maintenance of these gardens.
Besides, Murta or Shital pati plants were supposed to be planted on 225 hectares of land in the Shahidabad and Islampur areas of Chhatak upazila under the same project. The forest department also replanted old trees from another garden in the area instead of buying new plants.
In regards to this, Sunamganj district forest ranger Saad Uddin said that naturally grown saplings of mango-pine and pongame oiltree had been taken from an older garden near the haor and replanted in the newly designated afforestation area.
According to him, the allocated maintenance budget is being properly used and there are no irregularities.
Sylhet Divisional Deputy Conservator of Forests Taufiqul Islam said the afforestation project is ongoing in Tanguar Haor.
“I am not aware of any allegation of irregularities. But I will look into the matter,” he added.
The forest departmental officer and the district ranger expressed their disinclination to provide information regarding this report when this correspondent contacted them.
There is a natural mango-pine and pongame oiltree forest on the south side near the Ikoir lake of Fanarbagh area of Tanguar Haor in Tahirpur upazila. Due to the area’s remoteness, it is mostly disregarded by tourists. However, the lake and the garden are naturally scenic.
According to locals, the district Forest Department took up a forestation project in the area in FY2011-12 but did not plant any new saplings.
Ripchan Habib, an environmental activist of Patabuka village, said, “Some 10-12 years ago the forest department planted some mango-pine and pongame oiltree from Fanarbagh of Jagdishpur Mauza on the north-western side of the village. None of the plants survived back then either.”
He added that this is a waste of plants and is causing the natural garden to go barren.
Mofazzal Hossain, a member of Ward No 4 of North Sreepur union, said, “The forest department took large trees from the Fanarbagh garden at the end of the Bengali month of Chaitra and planted them with hired workers from our village. All the trees they planted have died. This is a waste of the government’s money.”
Labourer Rashik Mia of the same village was hired for the forestation project. “We were hired to take saplings from Fanarbagh and plant them in the new garden area. We planted both larger and smaller trees.”
President of the Beneficiary Association of the same village Aynal Haque said, “We planted many trees here in FY2011-12. The forest department is taking trees that we planted without informing us. They did not buy new saplings for the project.”
Tahirpur Upazila Parishad Chairman Karuna Sindhu Chowdhury Babul said, “I am the elected representative of the local government of the upazila. I do not know anything about forestry but I heard that all the trees planted by the forest department have died.”