It is not possible to keep even one tree, said BIWTA project director

Environmentalists and cultural activists demonstrated against the BIWTA development project’s tree-cutting plans on the banks of the Shitalakshya River in Narayanganj, claiming that “it is not possible to keep even a single tree.”

The Bangladesh Inland Water Transport Authority (BIWTA) plans to remove 81 trees to complete the World Bank-funded development project in Shitalakshya, an area the Department of Environment has designated as environmentally sensitive. The authorities have chopped down 43 of these trees.

In response to the protest, the BIWTA-affiliated Narayanganj River Port Authority organized a ‘consultative meeting’ with the stakeholders on Thursday morning in the conference room.

“It is not possible to keep even one tree,” stated Project Director (PD) BIWTA Additional Chief Engineer Ayub Ali during the meeting. To complete the project, we must cut down the trees. There’s no substitute for us. If there had been a substitute, we would have handled it that way.”

According to Ayub Ali, the “Bangladesh Regional Waterway Transport Project-1” has assigned BIWTA the task of establishing a multipurpose terminal on the side of the Narayanganj River Port Authority building on the banks of the Shitalakshya river in an area of 290 meters. The World Bank will provide funding for the construction of a new four-story terminal building and parking area.

“It was determined that 81 trees would be removed in order to complete the job.” As a result, the Forest and Environment Department has granted me authorization in compliance with the regulations.

According to Ayub Ali, “the felling of trees has sparked protests from local environmentalists and cultural workers. This hinders the completion of the project. The World Bank, which is providing funding for the project, has directed the scheduling of this consultative conference.

Nonetheless, the environmentalists and cultural activists who were present at the conference and calling for the implementation of development projects without chopping down trees declared that they would not be stopping their campaign against it.

“When the movement was going on, none of you paid any attention after cutting down some trees,” stated Dhiman Saha Jewel, general secretary of the Narayanganj Cultural Association. The World Bank now asserts that they have scheduled a meeting to address the public’s objection to the removal of the trees.

“We did not block any projects; our demand was to implement the project by protecting the trees,” stated Tarikul Sujan, a member of the Narayanganj people’s organization to protect the trees of Shitalakshya Par.

Many developed countries are implementing projects to protect the balance of the environment, he stated. By modifying the plan and carrying out the project without chopping down these trees in Narayanganj, BIWTA may have set an example. If preferred, we could construct a new structure in its place and remove the old one. It’s unfortunate that you didn’t follow that road.

The Narayanganj Cultural Association’s former president, Bhabani Shankar Roy, predicted that the campaign against tree-cutting would continue in the future. “BIWTA and I have an obligation to preserve the trees that remain in Shitalakshya Bank.” If we have to chop down those trees again, we will block them.

Engineer Ayub announced a plan to plant at least 500 trees on Shitalakshya Bank, adding, “During the upcoming monsoon season, we will select and plant the trees according to your suggestions.” We will plant ten trees rather than just one if needed.”

Urban planner Moinul Hossain of Narayanganj City Corporation advises “planting trees with the regional environment in mind.” The contractor company typically purchases hybrid tree seedlings that are unsuited to the local environment. Furthermore, cautious maintenance is necessary after planting the trees.

This meeting was chaired by the media, Sadar Model Police Station OC Shahadat Hossain, BIWTA officials, and IWTA’s Joint Director of the Narayanganj River Port, Mostafizur Rahman.

However, neither the district administration nor the environment or forest departments attended this conference. BIWTA officials reported that despite receiving the letter, no one showed up.

After a two-hour discussion, environmentalists disagreed with the BIWTA authorities’ decision because, on the one hand, they lacked the “option to cut trees” to complete the project.

Shitalakshya Par residents have been protesting against tree cutting since February 21. They staged press conferences, picture exhibits, rallies, and human chains as part of the protest. They have also released numerous media reports.