An excellent decision by JS watchdog
We wholeheartedly support a parliamentary body's decision to strongly oppose the public administration ministry's plan to build a civil service academy in Cox's Bazar on 700 acres of land that has been declared as a protected forest and ecologically critical area (ECA). According to the chairman of the parliamentary watchdog, it would be unacceptable for a government department to take the reserved forest land at a time when the government is trying to reclaim forest land that has been grabbed by different individuals and organisations. We, too, have previously mentioned in this column how this would set a dangerous precedent, and could open doors for private entities to follow suit.
In 2018, the Cox's Bazar district administration sought clearance from the Department of Environment (DoE) for the construction of the Bangabandhu Academy of Public Administration on the 700 acres of land adjacent to the Cox's Bazar-Teknaf Marine Drive. According to some sources, the name of Bangabandu was used in the proposed name so that the project could jump through bureaucratic hoops with ease. As distasteful as that move was, it seemed to have worked somewhat, as the DoE cleared the project.
Nevertheless, according to the parliamentary watchdog, the respective government department and the Prime Minister's Office were not properly informed about the type of land that the public administration ministry wanted to use. Otherwise, the construction of the training centre would never have been approved. Having been informed that the land has 100 acres of orchards created through social afforestation under the afforestation project in the coastal areas to address the adverse effects of climate change—and it's a hilly area that is a habitat to different species of flora and fauna—the parliamentary standing committee has recommended that the government take steps to stop the project and relocate it to somewhere else.
It is clear that the environment and ecology of the area would be severely damaged if the project is set up there. Given that the area is already under serious pressure from the influx of the Rohingyas, which has resulted in the razing of some 6,000 acres of forestland in southern Cox's Bazar, further destruction of forest areas is not something we can afford. Therefore, we second the parliamentary body's call to the DoE to withdraw its clearance for the project. We also ask the land ministry to reclaim the plot from the public administration ministry. The move to set up the training centre on the ECA is unconstitutional, and we hope that it is stopped and that no such initiatives are pursued in the future.