The government is working to recover all the encroached forest lands across the country and a list of forest officials who collaborated with encroachers is being prepared.
Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Md Shahab Uddin disclosed the information while addressing a discussion organised by Bangladesh Forest Department at its headquarters in the capital on Sunday. The discussion was organised marking the International Day of Forests.
The minister said, "The forest ministry and the parliamentary committee is working together to recover the encroached forest lands with the active role of deputy commissioners of different districts."
"It is true that some forest officials and staff sacrificed their lives and some got injured while protecting forests. And it is also true that some officials shook hands with encroachers.
"We will find out who were the deputy forest officer, range officer or field officer when forest lands were encroached. We will make a list of them and appropriate action will be taken against them.
"Officers who sacrificed their lives and who got injured while protecting the country's forest lands will be awarded. At the same time, officers who helped encroachers in occupying forest lands will face punishment.
"Already, we have sent letters to deputy commissioners of different districts, instructing them to take action to recover the encroached forest lands.
"I have ordered all the forest officials to go and communicate with deputy commissioners in this regard. I want help from each and every official of the forest department, from guards to the chief conservator of forest, to recover the occupied forest lands," the minister added.
Saber Hossain Chowdhury, chairman of the parliamentary standing committee on the ministry of environment, forest and climate change, said not a single yard of forest land would be left to the encroachers.
"From 2000 to 2015, on average, 25,000 acres of forest land had been encroached illegally every year. The encroachers are changing the records of the lands to legalise the illegal occupation. It needs eight steps to change the record of a piece of land. If any of the officials objected, saying that the land belongs to the forest department, the records could not be changed. But they did not do that," he added.
"We will scrutinise the ACR of forest officials. The lawyers who conduct forest cases in the court, their performance will be scrutinised also. If we can ensure accountability this way, it will be possible to protect our forests," he said.
Number of tourists on St Martin's Island to be limited soon
The forest minister said the number of tourists on St Martin's Island would be limited to protect its biodiversity.
He said the Department of Environment is working on it.
"The Department of Environment is assessing how many tourists can access the island every day. We will send the assessment to the tourism ministry and they will ensure limited access to the island," he added.