DhakaTribune
CRB trees are saved, for now, as CDA backtracks

CRB trees are saved, for now, as CDA backtracks

The Chittagong Development Authority (CDA) has announced the suspension of its scheduled chopping of dozens of century-old trees in response to mounting protests from local residents and environmentalists against the construction of a ramp on the Tigerpass-CRB double-decker road. Despite the suspension of tree-felling along the Mohammad Yusuf Chowdhury Road, the protesters remain uneasy. They demand that the decision to build a ramp for the elevated expressway from Lalkhanbazar to the airport be revoked. The proposed construction of a ramp on the Tigerpass-CRB double-decker road as part of the elevated expressway project sparked widespread opposition, leading to various organizations in Chittagong joining the movement since Monday. Political parties, social groups, and environmental organizations demanded the cancellation of the decision, prompting discussions with the CDA chairman. In response, CDA Chairman Zahirul Alam Dobhas stated that discussions with protestors and experts would determine the next steps, including plans to redesign the ramp. He emphasized the importance of considering the opinions of protestors and experts in any further actions. Meanwhile, the Bangladesh Environmental Law Association (BELA) has sent a notice to the authorities concerned, demanding that the ancient and centuries-old trees be declared heritage. According to the elevated expressway project, the CDA decided to name it after former mayor late ABM Mohiuddin Chowdhury, with construction starting in February 2019. While the main construction is ongoing, the 16-km-long expressway, costing Tk4,298.95 crore, is set to open to the public next month, with 15 ramps under construction at various points in the city. Earlier, in 2021, plans to build a hospital in the CRB area were met with opposition from civil society due to concerns about preserving natural beauty and greenery. Consequently, the hospital project was not pursued further. ------------------ *‘An ugly affair’* ------------------ The decision to suspend the felling of at least 44 trees was made during a discussion between CDA chairman and officers and civil society leaders, led by Professor Dr Anpum Sen, in the conference room of the CDA on Tuesday afternoon. During the meeting, protestors expressed their opposition to having any ramps in the Tigerpass-CRB area, advocating for the preservation of the double-decker road and existing trees. At the outset of the meeting, sociologist Dr Anupam Sen, convener of a civil society platform in Chittagong, said: "The natural beauty of Chittagong is being destroyed due to urban development. Development is necessary, but if the environment is disrupted, all development will fail. I don't think there is any need for a ramp here. It’ll be an ugly affair. Why is there a need for so many ramps on the elevated expressway? “Urban planning should prioritize maintaining the natural environment and avoid anything harmful to it. Elevated means long-distance vehicles will go over it. Why should it be taken down on all roads?" CDA Chairman Zahirul Alam Dubash said: "There was a demand for 35 ramps on the elevated expressway. There has been some misunderstanding. Centennial trees will not be removed. Some small trees will be cut down. I have asked to reduce the size of the ramp if necessary." The CDA project director, Mahfuzur Rahman, stated: "You cannot cut centennial trees. Only the branches of a centennial tree can be cut. Should we need to elevate the ramp at this location, we will adjust the design accordingly. We will implement the work in accordance with everyone's opinions. If there is no need for a ramp, we will not build one." According to CDA Chief Engineer Kazi Hasan Bin Shams, the decision about the ramp is based on population density. "Vehicles are increasing every year. We've got to design considering how many vehicles will operate in 50-100 years. The proposal was made considering the importance of the area. I will not do anything destructive to the environment in Chittagong city. We will not construct any ramps by cutting trees. We will not spoil the double-decker road." -------------- *Biodiversity* -------------- The CRB area boasts at least 100 different tree species within a 350-metre section from Pologround to Tigerpass Junction, including approximately 50 large trees. A survey conducted by the non-governmental organization Effective Creation on Human Opinion (ECHO) in 2021 identified 223 plant species in the CRB area, including 88 large tree species, 41 shrub species, 72 fern species, and 22 vine species, along with 183 species of medicinal plants. Meanwhile, environmentalist group BELA has sent notices to the CDA chairman, the chief conservator of forests and the general manager (East) of Bangladesh Railway, Chittagong. A copy of the notice has been forwarded to the minister of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. BELA said it has already been circulated in various media that the CDA chairman has applied to the chief conservator of forests and the general manager for Bangladesh Railway for permission to cut off the trees and use the land. It goes against public interest, the notice reads. As per the notice, Article 18(A) of the Constitution pledges the state to provide for the safety of life, nature, and the environment. As a result, any development activities must be done with environmental protection. But without doing that, cutting down trees for various developmental works is not in the public interest. If these trees are cut down in the name of the construction of a ramp, it will be similar to killing trees and natural heritage. These trees are home to many birds, which helps pedestrians get close to nature.
Published on: 2024-04-03 20:13:24.304232 +0200 CEST