A mobile court yesterday jailed two people, including an official of Halda Valley Tea Estate, over digging a lake in a reserve forest in Chattogram’s Fatikchhari upazila.
Mohsin Hossain, 30, assistant manager of the estate, got one year’s imprisonment, and Goutam Das, 48, an excavator driver, one month’s imprisonment.
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Sabbir Rahman Sunny, executive magistrate and upazila nirbahi officer of Fatikchhari, who led the mobile court, told The Daily Star that they conducted the court in the tea estate area following a directive from the district administration and found that the estate authorities had dug a lake by cutting the hill and trees without any permission.
“We jailed the two as they violated the Balumahal and Soil Management Act-2010. Besides, we demolished the barriers constructed by the tea estate authorities on government roads to obstruct vehicular movement.”
Contacted, Nader Khan, managing director of the tea estate, said if the administration asked them to fill up the lake, they would do so.
Meanwhile, the Chattogram district administration begun demarcating 784 acres of land in illegal possession of the tea estate in the Ramgarh-Sitakunda reserve forest.
The UNO said the district administration leased out 1,052 acres of land to the company, but it has illegally occupied 784 more acres.
Abul Bashar Mohammed Fakhruzzaman, deputy commissioner of Chattogram, told this correspondent that they started an investigation into the encroachment by the tea estate and took action against the accused after a report was published in The Daily Star.
“We will take strict action against this estate if they resort to any irregularities in future,” he added.
This newspaper yesterday run a report under the headline “reserve forest defiled, defying court order”.
On December 29, 2022, the forest department sued four employees of the tea estate at the Forest Court in Chattogram for digging a lake on 135 acres of land in the Badurkhil area of the reserve forest in violation of a status quo order.
Disputes between the forest department and Halda began in 2003 when the Chattogram district administration leased out 1,052 acres of land to the company, mentioning it on documents as khas land.
Forest department officials said 134 acres of the leased-out land belonged to the reserve forest. They filed a case with a Chattogram court, seeking an amendment to the land record, saying that the land was mistakenly recorded as khas in the Bangladesh Survey (BS).
In June 2016, a court issued a status quo order on the disputed property.
According to data from the forest department, the land in question was recorded as forest in the Revisional Survey 1927-28.
The Calcutta gazette issued in 1893 by the then Assam-Bengal Forest Department also recorded it as forest land, said the documents.
But in the 1980s, the plots were mistakenly recorded as khas land in the BS, the officials added.