Jessore Road: Tree felling halted for 6 months

Jessore Road: Tree felling halted for 6 months

The High Court yesterday halted the felling of century-old trees along the Jessore-Benapole road following protests against a government decision to cut them down.

It directed the authorities concerned of the government to maintain a status quo on the tree felling for six months.

In response to a writ petition, the HC also issued a rule asking the respondents to explain in two weeks why their inaction to protect the trees should not be declared illegal.

a writ petition, the HC also issued a rule asking the respondents to explain in two weeks why their inaction to protect the trees should not be declared illegal.

The court asked them to show causes why they should not be ordered to protect the trees while turning the road into a four-lane one.

Secretaries to the Ministry of Road Transport and Bridges, and the Ministry of Environment and Forest, director general of the Department of Environment, chief engineer of the Roads and Highway Department, deputy commissioner and superintendent of police in Jessore, upazila nirbahi officer of Benapole, and officer-in-charge of Benapole Police Station have been made the respondents to the rule.

The bench of Justice Zubayer Rahman Chowdhury and Justice Md Iqbal Kabir came up with the order and the rule after hearing the writ petition filed by Human Rights and Peace for Bangladesh challenging the inaction of the respondents to protect the trees.

Petitioner's counsel Manzill Murshid told The Daily Star that the government cannot cut the trees down now because of the HC order.

However, there is no legal bar for the government to continue the development work of the highway protecting the trees, he added.

During the hearing on the petition, Manzill told the court that the government was duty-bound to protect the environment and the trees as per the constitution and the environment protection law.

However, the government's decision to cut the trees goes against the very constitution and the law, he said.

Last July, the authorities decided to fell around 2,300 trees along the highway, many of which have been standing majestically on both sides of the road throughout well over a century.

The decision was made under a "development project" to widen a 30-kilometre portion of the highway.

However, since then, protests have been brewing all over social media, and many environmental groups have been demonstrating against what they called a “shocking decision”.

Jessore-Benapole highway is actually a 38-kilometre stretch of the 99-kilometre Jessore Road that connects Jessore with India's Dum Dum.

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'Pleasure' trip or what?

'Pleasure' trip or what?

Just two weeks before going back to the navy, the Chittagong Port Authority chairman went on an eight-day official visit to South Africa and Morocco apparently to gather knowledge on how to improve the port's operation.

Questions have been raised over the trip as CPA Chairman Rear Admiral M Khaled Iqbal will have only six days, upon his return, to implement the things learnt in the overseas visit.

A number of officials at the Chittagong port have cast doubts about the outcome of the trip, saying nothing much could be learnt from visits to the South African and Moroccan ports since those are not as developed as the European and US ports.

A delegation that includes Khaled is on a visit to the Port of Cape Town in South Africa and the Port of Tanger-Med in Morocco from January 16 to 23. Shipping Minister Shajahan Khan is heading the team.

In a letter to the CPA on December 24 last year, the shipping ministry also included Shajahan's son, an Awami League MP's son, and the CPA chief medical officer in the 15-member team.

Their inclusion in the team surprised many of the port officials, who say the sons of the minister and the lawmaker, and the medical officer have nothing to do with the port's development work.

Besides, five members of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Shipping Ministry, which oversees the port's operation, were included in the team, raising questions about conflict of interest.

Members of a parliamentary standing committee cannot go on any foreign trip whose expenses are borne by an organisation the House body oversees, according to parliamentary affairs experts.

The CPA is bearing the costs of the ongoing visit, and it has already released Tk 95 lakh for the purpose. The total expenses will be tallied after the delegation returns.

On January 30, Khaled will hand over the responsibility to the new CPA chairman and go back to the navy, sources said.

Earlier on January 2, the public administration ministry appointed CPA member (engineer) Commodore Zulfikar Aziz as the new chairman.

Despite repeated attempts, Khaled could not be reached for comments.

Two of the delegation members opted out of the trip. They are Maj (retd) Rafiqul Islam, chairman of the Parliamentary Standing Committee on the Shipping Ministry, and Kallal Kumar Chakraborty, a deputy secretary.

Contacted, Rafiqul said he is in favour of visiting developed seaports to get firsthand experience of how those work.

If we visit ports of world standards in Europe or even in Asia, we will be able to utilise the experience for developing our seaports.

Asked why he didn't join the trip, the AL lawmaker avoided giving a reply.

Sources close to Rafiqul, however, said that he considered the visit unnecessary, as the ports to be visited by the team are not that developed.

At a recent meeting of the parliamentary body, Rafiqul expressed resentment that some persons, who are not related to the port's operation, were included in the delegation, according to sources.

Talking to this correspondent, former member of the CPA Board Hadi Hossain Babul said Khaled's visit to the African ports would be of no use, rather it would be sightseeing, as he will soon hand over his responsibility to a new CPA chairman.

He also said only those directly involved in the port's operation should have been included in the team.

Hadi pointed out that private operators should be engaged in providing services, such as operating the terminals, for upgrading the port's capacity and efficiency.

Southeast Asian and European ports are engaging globally renowned private operators on a large scale in such jobs. We should gather knowledge on those ports,” Hadi said while explaining why the visit to the two African ports would not be so fruitful.

The ex-CPA Board member, however, said the African ports also engage private operators but on a small scale.

In terms of annual handling of containers, Chittagong port secured the 71st position among the top 100 container ports in the world, according to the 2017 ranking of Lloyd's List, the world's oldest journal on port and shipping.

The Chittagong port handled around 25 lakh TEU (twenty-foot equivalent unit) containers last year.

The Port of Cape Town couldn't make it to the list while the Port of Tanger-Med, which handled 29 lakh TEU containers in 2016, ranked 51st.

The Port of Cape Town handled nine lakh TEU containers in fiscal 2013-2014. Chittagong port handled 17. 31 lakh TEU containers in 2014.

The delegation visiting the two African ports includes Md Abdus Sattar, deputy secretary at the shipping ministry; Mohammad Jahangir Alam Khan, senior information and public relations officer at the ministry; MM Tarikul Islam, private secretary to the shipping minister; Md Omar Faruk, secretary of the CPA; Mosharraf Hossain, chief medical officer of the CPA; Commodore M Jahangir Alam, chairman of Payra Port Authority; and Md Solaiman Alam Seth, honorary consul of South Africa.

Parliamentary body members Talukdar Abdul Khalek, Nurul Islam Sujan, Habibar Rahman and Momotaj Begum are also in the team.

Shajahan's son Ashibur Rahman, Momotaj's son Abdullah Al Jubayer, and Md Solaiman are supposed to bear their expenses for the trip, sources said.

The delegation will have to submit a report to the shipping ministry within 15 days of its return.

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Russia accuses Washington of leaking diplomats' bank details

Russia accuses Washington of leaking diplomats' bank details

US media outlet Buzzfeed reported this week that US officials investigating allegations of Kremlin interference in the 2016 U. S. presidential election were studying records of financial transactions involving Russian diplomats. Buzzfeed cited details of several bank transfers.

It's obvious that this could not have happened without the knowledge of the authorities of that country (the United States)," the Russian foreign ministry said in a statement.

In other words, this intrusion on the sanctity of the accounts of the embassy and its staff, who have diplomatic immunity, is the work of Washington officialdom.

The statement said that the transactions that were leaked contained nothing except routine payments, but that these were being twisted to make them appear suspicious.

Once again we have to note that Washington is not ensuring the appropriate conditions for the functioning of Russia's diplomatic missions. The pressure on them continues and is growing," said the ministry.

We demand that the American authorities, at last, start implementing their own national laws and international obligations, immediately stop the unlawful distribution of confidential information . and hold responsible those who are to blame, including those who hold relevant posts in the American state administration.

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Modi Govt Saddling India’s Military With More Bureaucracy

Modi Govt Saddling India’s Military With More Bureaucracy

by Prakash Katoch

Recent media reports indicate that India’s Ministry of Defense (MoD) has decided to allow private companies to manage and operate all Army Base Workshops (ABWs) and station workshops in eight cities across six states. The scheme is called GOCO (Government Owned, Contractor Managed).

Ostensibly, the move is part of a major

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Status Quo Not Altered At Doklam: India

Status Quo Not Altered At Doklam: India

Ministry of External Affairs spokesperson Raveesh Kumar

Indian and Chinese troops had been locked in a stand-off for over two months last year in the Doklam area near Sikkim before "disengaging" on August 28.

India said today that the status quo has not been altered at Doklam, where Indian and Chinese troops were locked in a stand-off for over two

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‘Make-II’ Promise For Arms Firms

‘Make-II’ Promise For Arms Firms

Flying High: Industry now have more opportunities to participate in defence production. Indian industry can suggest projects related to sub-systems for innovation

Indian industry can suggest projects related to sub-systems for innovation and import substitution under the revised Make-II procedure in the Defence Procurement Procedure, the Defence

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LGRD ministry holds the key

LGRD ministry holds the key

It appears the mayoral by-polls to the DNCC have become uncertain following yesterday's High Court stay order. But the legal complexity can be removed and the LGRD ministry holds the key.

Newly added wards, the root cause for the polls process to grind to a halt, could be excluded from the Dhaka North City Corporation for the time being so that the elections could be held.

This will not be something new.

Sixteen years ago, the LGRD ministry swiftly removed all legal complexities over redrawn boundaries of three city corporations, including Dhaka, clearing the way for the polls.

The same ministry in 1998 increased the number of wards in Dhaka, Rajshahi and Khulna city corporations. In September 1998, the Election Commission redrew the boundaries of the wards issuing a gazette notification and moved for holding the polls.

But it faced legal hurdles. At least 10 writ petitions were filed challenging the new boundaries, five of the petitions were filed in Dhaka.

In response to those petitions, the HC stayed all work related to the elections and the stay order was extended several times. As a result, the polls to the three city corporations could not be held on time.

The first elections in the three corporations were held in January 1994 when the BNP was in power. Fresh elections were supposed to be held in 1999 when the Awami League was in power.

Assuming office on October 10, 2001, the BNP moved to hold the polls to the Dhaka City Corporation quickly, to unseat the then DCC mayor who was an AL leader.

It scrapped the LGRD ministry's circulars on redrawn boundaries of the wards to pave the way for the polls. Elections to Rajshahi and Khulna were also held along with the DCC on April 25, 2002.

After 16 years, the LGRD ministry and the EC are facing almost the same situation.

The ministry in July last year expanded boundaries of Dhaka North City Corporation and Dhaka South City Corporation by forming 36 wards with 16 union councils adjacent to the two corporations.

In this process, the number of wards in the DNCC increased to 54 from 36.

There was no move to hold the polls in those new wards. But the sudden death of Mayor Annisul Huq changed the situation.

The EC last week announced the schedule of the polls to fill the vacant mayor post and simultaneously declared elections for councillors in the 36 wards newly added to the two corporations.

But the legality of the polls schedule was challenged by two chairmen of union parishads, which have been included in the DNCC area.

In response, a High Court bench yesterday stayed for three months the by-election to the DNCC. It was scheduled to be held on February 26.

This development led the EC to suspend all work related to the polls.

Local government expert, Tofail Ahmed blamed the LGRD ministry and the EC for the situation. He said the EC announced the polls schedule keeping many legal loopholes.

New wards were included in the city corporation in the middle of last year. But the voter list is yet to be finalised. There were problems with boundary demarcations," he told The Daily Star yesterday.

Tofail said union parishad chairmen were elected for five years and their tenure would expire on 2021. The LGRD ministry made no decision regarding them, he said, adding, "So, it was predicted that the election would be stayed.

EC acting secretary Helaluddin Ahmed seemed to be putting the blame on the LGRD ministry.

After being requested by the LGRD ministry, we made preparation for holding the polls. We found no legal complexities," he told reporters yesterday.

LGRD Minister Khandker Mosharraf Hossain, however, held the EC responsible for the situation. He said his ministry's job was to declare the mayor post vacant after the death of Annisul. The EC is responsible for preparing the voter list and redrawing the boundaries of the wards, he said talking to reporters at his office at the secretariat.

He said he feels the necessity of electing a mayor as it is not possible to run a large city corporation without a mayor. He said the ministry would do whatever is necessary for holding the by-polls.

A major difference between the situation 16 years ago and now is that there is no mayor for the DNCC. Back then, the three mayors carried out the responsibilities until their successors were elected.

If the LGRD ministry considered the mayoral polls urgent, it might follow previous instances to clear the way for the election. For this, the circular, through which 18 new wards were added to the DNCC, has to be scrapped, making the writ petitions to lose effect.

Excluding the newly added wards would also get rid of another legal complexity the DNCC is facing. According to the law, at least 75 percent councillors (39, if the new wards are included) are need to form the corporation. The DNCC currently has 36 councillors.

Now, all depends on the LGRD ministry.

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