A parliamentary body has set March next year as the deadline for launching eviction drives to recover 138,000 acres of reserve forestland grabbed by 88,000 individuals and organisations across the country.
The decision came at a meeting of the parliamentary standing committee on the environment, forest and climate change ministry at the Jatiya Sangsad Bhaban yesterday.
"The committee asked the ministry to complete by December 20 the list of grabbers and prepare documents containing their addresses, data on occupied land area, land record numbers and the dates of grabbing," Saber Hossain Chowdhury, the chief of the parliamentary watchdog, told The Daily Star after the meeting.
The ministry will write to all deputy commissioners across the country by January 31 to prepare eviction notices, mentioned the Awami League lawmaker.
Within February, the DCs will serve the notices to the 88,000 individuals and organisations who grabbed forestland, asking them to return the occupied land to the government agencies concerned, Saber said.
"From March, the deputy commissioners will start eviction drives to recover the forestland," he added.
Earlier in October, the ministry had informed the committee that 287,000 acres of forestland, including 138,000 acres of reserve forestland, are illegally occupied by individuals and organisations.
Of the 64 districts, Cox's Bazar has lost the highest area of forestland -- 59,471 acres -- to grabbers, according to the ministry data.
The committee yesterday asked the ministry to publish the names of the grabbers of forestland on its website and also digitalise all the records and documents on forestland.
It also recommended that the ministry estimate the value of all forestland.
"We will not be able to protect our forestland if we don't estimate its value," Saber said.
The JS body also asked Bangladesh Economic Zone Authority to conduct an environmental study before setting up an economic zone anywhere in the country.
Committee members, including Environment Minister Md Shahab Uddin, independent lawmaker Rejaul Karim Lablu and AL MP Khodeza Nasreen Akhter Hossain, were present at the meeting.