Suhrawardy Udyan: Fate of trees still in limbo?
The government is yet to inform the High Court about its decision over the old and ecologically important trees at the capital's Suhrawardy Udyan, although the court wanted to know about it more than three weeks back.
It is also uncertain when the Ministry of Liberation War Affairs will provide the information to the HC since its (HC) regular functions are currently suspended due to the pandemic.
During hearing a writ petition filed by six rights bodies and an activist, an HC bench on June 29 sought for the resolution of a meeting organised by the ministry on June 24 with Minister AKM Mozammel Haque in the chair.
The petitioners claimed that the ministry is sponsoring a project titled "Suhrawardy Udyane Swadhinata Stomvo Nirman -- Threetiya Porjay" (Independence Pillar Construction at Suhrawardy Udyan -- Third Phase), which is being implemented by cutting indiscriminately hundreds of old and ecologically important trees of historic Suhrawardy Udyan.
On June 29, the HC bench of Justice Farah Mahbub and Justice SM Maniruzzaman asked Deputy Attorney General (DAG) Samarendranath Biswas to collect the resolution from the ministry and to submit it to this court in two weeks and also fixed July 15 for further hearing on the petition.
DAG Samarendranath told The Daily Star on July 23 that the ministry has finalised the resolution of its decision taken at the meeting on June 24, but he did not collect it as the court functions are suspended now.
"I will place it before the High Court when the court functions resume," he said.
DAG Samarendranath said he did not know what decision the ministry has taken about the trees at Suhrawardy Udyan.
Meanwhile on July 23, Minister AKM Mozammel Haque told this correspondent that the process for cutting trees at Suhrawardi Udyan has already been stopped and no tree will be felled for implementing the project.
The construction works will continue keeping the trees intact, he said. He also said his office will inform the decision to the HC in due time.
Petitioners' lawyer Syeda Rizwana Hasan also said the ministry has not informed them of its decision.
"An engineer of Public Works Department, Md Sohanur Rahman, communicated with me over phone to join the meeting on June 24 without giving any prior notice to the petitioners. I was busy with another international programme on that day and could not attend the meeting," she said.
She said the government could have submitted the ministry's meeting resolution to the HC in compliance with its requirement.
Contacted, Sohanur Rahman said the ministry had organised a workshop on June 24 that included Botany professors of Dhaka University. The workshop was about making Suhrawardy Udyan more green, he added.
The resolution of the workshop is with the ministry, he said, adding that he did not know about the decision.
Earlier on May 20, the HC bench led by Justice Farah Mahbub expressed hope that the problems regarding Suhrawardy Udyan's tree felling will be resolved amicably, through discussions between the government and environmentalists.
On May 9, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association, Association for Land Reforms and Development, Nijera Kori, Bangladesh Legal Aid and Services Trust, Bangladesh Paribesh Andolon and Ain O Salish Kendra, and architect Mubasshir Hossain collectively filed the petition with the HC seeking its directive on the government to refrain from any further tree felling in the historic Suhrawardy Udyan for commercial purposes and/or for purposes not directly related to the preservation of the memories of the national liberation and historic war of Independence.
In the petition, they prayed to the HC to order the government to plant trees three times higher than the number of trees which were felled in the name of implementing the project.
On June 29, DAG Samarendranath told the HC that the government has suspended the process of cutting trees at Suhrawardy Udyan.