A mobile court in Sylhet's Gowainghat has destroyed 25 excavators, locally known as boma machines, and other earthmoving equipment used for extracting stone illegally from the Pyain River ruining the scenic beauty of Jaflong.
The court, led by Gowainghat Upazila Nirbahi Officer Bishwajit Pal, has also seized extracted stone from the spot.
The raid was made on Wednesday after a report headlined “Scenic Jaflong under assault” was published in The Daily Star on the day.
The UNO said the drive was conducted to prevent stone lifting from the river.
Some environmental organisations, including Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers' Association, Save the Heritage and Environment, Bangladesh Poribesh Abdolon and Waterkeeper, have long been trying to save the beauty of tourist spots in Sylhet, creating awareness among the people by holding rallies, human chains and seminars.
Abdul Hye Al-Hadi, chief executive of Save the Heritage and Environment, said some local influentials had been illegally extracting stone by excavators from the river bed for long, posing a threat to the environment and a tea estate nearby.
Abdul Karim Kim, general secretary of Bangladesh Poribesh Andolon, Sylhet chapter, told this correspondent that sensing the drive, the sand lifting syndicate removed several excavators from the spot.
Locals alleged that although such drives were conducted on many occasions earlier, the influential stone lifters returned with their excavators within a few days by “managing” a section of political leaders.
Local officials of the Department of Environment and members of Gowainghat Police Station and Border Guard Bangladesh were with the mobile court.
According to a gazette notification issued in 2015, around 15sqkm area, from the Jaflong-Dawki river flowing into Bangladesh at the border with India to the edge of Sari-Gowainghat river, is Ecologically Critical Area.
Any kind of stone extraction or economic activity that could affect the area's environment was restricted.
A 2012 High Court order that asked the government to issue the gazette also asked to stop the use of such excavators and other earthmoving equipment in the area.