Officials have attended multiple training abroad, bought five cars for Tk 2.5 crore and rented five more for Tk 10 lakh per month, but they have not even selected the project areas.
And although nothing has been done since the launch of the project 14 months ago, project officials have spent Tk 57 crore of the Tk 1,500 crore scheme titled Sustainable Forests and Livelihood.
The Parliamentary Standing Committee on Environment, Forest and Climate Change yesterday expressed resentment at this, saying it is nothing but sheer negligence.
“Even some basic works such as preparing the training module, selecting instructors and the project areas have not been completed. But they have purchased and rented vehicles. This is nothing but sheer negligence towards the implementation of the project,” said a member of the House body.
“Not only that. Nine officials of the forest department visited India and Nepal in June last year for training using the project fund. This is not acceptable,” he added.
Of the project cost, Tk 12,00 crore will come from the World Bank in loan and the rest from the public fund.
“The five-year project began in July last year. But nothing of significance has been done for the implementation of the project in the last 14 months,” committee Chairman Saber Hossain Chowdhury told reporters after the meeting at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban.
Officials could not even select the project areas, he added.
The project aims to develop collaborative forest management and increase opportunities for alternative income for the people who are dependent on forests for their livelihood, according to project documents.
Under the project, trees will be planted in 76,000 hectares of land in 600 villages. The project seeks to improve the lives of 40,000 people.
At yesterday’s meeting, the House committee members expressed dismay when project officials could not speak of any significant progress although they already spent Tk 57 crore, meeting sources said.
“The progress of the project is far from our expectation,” Saber told reporters.
Also interestingly, the forest and environment ministry scrapped the Project Evaluation Committee (PEC).
But the ministry officials could not explain why it was done when the parliament committee members sought to know it.
“‘We have asked the ministry to give an explanation in the next meeting,” Saber said.
The PEC has been scrapped as a top official of the ministry wants his brother at its helm, sources said.
Contacted, Project Director Zahir Uddin Ahmed said they bought five cars for Tk 2.5 crore and rented another five cars for Tk 2.5 lakh each per month.
Asked about the delay in starting the project work, he said, “It has now started.”
About the foreign trips by project officials, he said, “Those were study tours. They went there to learn. I cannot say anything more.”
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The committee also asked the environment ministry to penalise Dhaka North City Corporation with a fine for dumping garbage in Aminbazar without environmental clearance.
“The Dhaka North City Corporation is dumping waste and garbage at the landfill in Aminbazar without the requisite environmental clearance from the Department of Environment. By doing this, the city corporation is polluting environment. So we asked the ministry to impose fine on the city corporation,” said Saber.
“What the Dhaka North City Corporation is doing is totally illegal. The Department of Environment earlier sent a letter to the city corporation to refrain from dumping waste in that area but they paid no heed. We have asked the ministry to serve a notice calling for the closure of the landfill,” he added.
The waste station in Aminbazar was built on 50 acres of land in 2005-2006.