Human chain to cancel declaration of Sangu wildlife sanctuary and stop eviction of villagers

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Hill Voice, 14 June 2023, Bandarban: Sangu Mouza residents in Lama Upazila of Bandarban hill district organised a human chain at the Bandarban Press Club premises and submitted a memorandum to the Prime Minister demanding cancellation of the order declaring Sangu Wildlife Sanctuary on 5,760 acres of Jummas’ land and protection of the villagers from an eviction.

Sangu Mouza headman Chyongpat Mro presided over the event and Moderator was Twai Aung Marma. In addition, Tanaya Mro and Ukyamong Marma from conscious student society, Bandarban Headman and Karbari Kalyan Parishad’s President Hlathwaihri Marma were also present there along with the victim residents of the Mouza.

In the program the speakers said that for the first time, notification was issued as wildlife sanctuary on 5,760 acres of land based on gazette notification No. PBM (Branch-3) 11/93/190 dated on 7/3/1996 of the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. The Jumma villagers expressed their grief as the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change issued a re-notification to implement the Forest Division—2 Memorandum No. PBM/Forest Branch—2/02 Wildlife Sanctuaries 13/2010/212 Dated 4-6-2010 of Environment and Forests Ministry 2010 as per that notification.

The memorandum says, “Once Sangu Mouza was known as the heaven to land robbers. The people had to live in fear of losing their lands every single day. After the CHT Accord, the might of the land robbers has been weakened and the people have begun to live in peace. But in this safe and peaceful time, now again the forest department’s wildlife sanctuary activity has caused panic among the people. To implement this declaration as a wildlife sanctuary, hundreds of families living in the sanctuary area will have to be evicted.”

The memorandum adds, “We the villagers have been living here for hundreds of years struggling with nature. Forests and nature are part and parcel of our life and livelihood. Our livelihood depends on hill farming. While jum cultivation provides food for the whole year, maintenances of the children are met through the seasonal crop cultivation in the hills. According to reliable sources, the Lama Forest Department has called a high-level meeting at a private hotel in Cox’s Bazar on June 15 to implement the wildlife sanctuary project by the Ministry of Environment and Forests.

The people of the area claim strongly, “Once the proposed project is implemented, the entire Sangu Mauza will be severely damaged. Revoking the order of declaration of wildlife sanctuary will be humane so that the ordinary hill Jumma families can live on bread and butter.”

In the end, the memorandum mentions, “Before the peace Accord, three Paras (neighbourhood) in Sangu Mauza were evicted due to the disturbance of land robbers. Now, the people of the area live in panic due to the fear of eviction again for the project. Therefore, we earnestly request you to cancel the declaration and notification of Sangu sanctuary and save the 13 Paras directly and indirectly all the residents of the Mauza from the eviction.”

The copies of the memorandum were submitted to the Minister of Environment and Forest, CHT affgairs Minister, Chairman of Chittagong Regional Council, Secretary to the Prime Minister’s Office, Secretary of Environment and Forests, Secretary of CHT affairs ministry, Chief Conservator of Forests, Chittagong Divisional Commissioner, Brigade Commander of 69 Infantry Brigade of Bandarban, Chairman of Bandarban Hill District council, Deputy Commissioner of Bandarban, Superintendent of Police of Bandarban, Divisional Forest Officer of Bandarban Forest Division, Divisional Forest Officer of Lama Forest Division, Chairman of Lama Upazila Parishad, Lama Upazila Executive Officer etc.