The government should take legal action against the forest scammers as they are enemy of the country, says Dr Iftekharuzzaman
Transparency International Bangladesh (TIB) has found embezzlement up to 61% in many instances during allotment of funds for implementing forestation projects by the Forest Department.
Officials under the divisional forest office, forest range office, and beat office are involved in the channel of corruption.
TIB unveiled a study report over the corruption titled "Forest Department: Governance Challenges and Way Forward," through a virtual press conference on Wednesday.
"The government should take legal action against the forest scammers, who are mostly politically influenced, as they are enemies of the country," said Dr Iftekharuzzaman, executive director of TIB, adding that forest officials are in a competition to secure better postings for ensuring a lofty share in the corruption.
According to the TIB study, up to Tk3 crore is given as a bribe for the post of the chief conservator of forest.
Policymakers at the ministries, their personal officers, and other top officials are the ones who take the bribe, the study added.
“The Forest Department has failed to prevent deforestation and illegal grabbing of forest land. This is because they have institutionalized corruption inside their department,” the TIB director added.
There are 46.522 lakh acres of land under the Forest Department which accounts for around 12.76% of the total land of the country.
Alarmingly, of those, around 4.322 lakh acres [9% of our total forest land] has fallen victim to deforestation from 2001 and 2019, TIB informed while quoting the Global Forest Watch report 2020.
Around 2.874 lakh acres of forest land has been illegally grabbed till 2019. Out of that, the Forest Department was only able to recover 8,790 acres of land, the TIB study added.
“The Forest Department did not preserve the land documents properly and they didn’t even take any initiative for recovering the lost land,’’ said Rezaul Karim, program manager (research and policy) at TIB.
As per the TIB study, around 1.602 lakh acres of forest land have so far been allotted to different organizations by the Forest Department. Of those organizations, Bangladesh Army is the receiver of 57.74% of the total allotment, followed by Bangladesh Forest Industries Development Corporation (BFIDC), which got 26.89%.
Elephant sanctuaries have been destroyed due to the construction of Ramu Cantonment in Cox’s Bazar, and the installation of a firing range at Madhupur Shalbon, said the TIB study adding that the construction of economic zones, power plants in forest areas are factors behind the deforestation.