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.