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A view-exchange meeting on the draft amendment to the Forest Act, 1927 and the draft of Wildlife (Preservation) Act, 2010, jointly organized by Maleya Foundation, Movement for the protection of land and forest in CHT, and Bangladesh Indigenous Peoples’ Network on Climate Change and Biodiversity was held at Dhaka press club on July, 08, 2012.

[The distinguished guests are seen immersed in contemplative mood while paying heed to the audience during ‘open discussion’ session at one stage of the program.]

With Goutam Dewan, chairperson of Movement for the protection of land and forest in CHT in the chair, the program saw a panel of distinguished guests in Prof. Dr. Mizanur Rahman, chairperson of National Human Rights Commissison, Hasanul Haq Inu, MP, member of parliamentary caucus on indigenous affairs, His Majesty Barrister Raja Devasish Roy,

Prof. Dr. Sadeka Halim, commissioner, Bangladesh Information Commission, Dr. Meghna Guhathakurta, executive director, Research Initiatives, Bangladesh (RIB), Syeda Rizwana Hasan, chief executive, Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers’ Association (BELA), Shamsul Huda, executive director, Association for Land Reform and Development (ALRD), and Sudatta Bikash Tanchangya, general secretary, Movement for the protection of land and forest in CHT. Besides, a good number of indigenous peoples from different parts of the country also took part in the view-exchange program.

“I myself will forward the objections, alongside the commission's recommendations on removing the inconsistencies, to the speaker, standing committee on forest and even to the prime minister,” the head of National Human Rights Commission said, further asking the stakeholders concerned of the country’s forests to feel free to submit their objections, if any, on the draft amendment to the Forest Act, 1927 and the draft of Wildlife (Preservation) Act, 2010 to the commission, and further urging them to compel the government to listen to their rational demands.

In his speech, Raja Devasish Roy opined that without going through related laws being followed in other countries, the government is enacting the two drafts, which would ultimately cause the people of the forest regions to lose their rights.

Mr. Roy went on saying that when he had been a Special Assistant to the Chief Adviser (2006-2008) of Bangladesh with the rank and status of a State Minister for the Ministry of Environment and Forests, he found that forests and diversity of wildlife are sharply decreasing in the reserve forests, which are directly managed by the Forest Department and which in total stand at 24% of the total land in CHT, much to the opposite of the lands, which are managed by the local indigenous peoples, and which still hold most of the last remaining forests in CHT. To protect a forest, the local forest-dependent peoples must be meaningfully involved in the entire process of forest management; it cannot be protected by lodging criminal cases against them, he further added.

Jatiya Samajtantrik Dal President Hasanul Haque Inu, MP, said that before finalizing the draft amendment to the Forest Act, 1927 and the draft of Wildlife (Preservation) Act, 2010, the government should sit with all stakeholders concerned of the country’s forests, and in case of CHT, with the authority of CHT Regional Council.

It should be mentioned that coincidentally, the draft of Wildlife (Preservation) Act, 2010 was passed in the House on July 08, the date this view-exchange meeting took place at Dhaka press club.