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No poison for fishing in Sundarban: HC

Published : Saturday, 20 August, 2022 at 12:00 AM  Count : 621

High Court, in a written verdict, has observed that if fishes are hunted inside the Sundarban by using poisons, one day the biggest natural mangrove forest in the world will be devoid of fish and its plant-biodiversity will be completely destroyed.
The then HC bench Justice M Enayetur Rahim (currently a judge of the Appellate Division) and Justice Md Mostafizur Rahman came up with the observations in the  full text of the verdict released recently, which is available on the Supreme Court website.
The HC bench delivered a verdict on September 16 last year responding to a writ petition filed in this regard.
The HC verdict said that if fishing is done with poison or crabs are caught using 'charo method', all the passengers of that boat should be banned from entering the Sundarban for a certain period of time.
In its verdict, the HC gave seven- point guideline to save biodiversity of the largest mangrove Sundarban:
1. The crab fishermen including the petitioners can harvest crab of a certain weight only through Baitha (oars) driven boats and 'Don Dari' for a certain period by paying a certain amount of revenue to the station office concerned in the Sundarban after taking permission from the authorities     concerned.
2. No engine-run boat or trawler can be plied in the canals of the reserved areas of Sundarban under any circumstance. For this, the Forest Department and the law enforcement agencies must be more active in the Sundarban.
3. Boats and boatmen concerned must be strictly checked by the station office of the Forest Department while entering the Sundarban for crab harvesting with a pass so that no one can enter the Sundarban with 'charo (crab trap made of bamboo nets locally known as charo) and 'poison' or any other illegal things.
4. The authorities concerned will provide handbills/posters with awareness massages to every boat- pass holder on entry into the Sundarban.
5. Fishermen have to collect permission from the authorities concerned for motorized boats or trawlers for speedy marketing of their fish collected from the rivers and canals in the Sundarban. Similarly, crabs harvested through only using the boat without engine are collected from Dubla and any other recognized place within the Sundarban where there is no restriction on the movement of engine-run boat or trawler and transported by engine-run boat or trawler for speedy marketing must be allowed.
In that case, for a specified period, authorized motor boats or trawlers should be stationed at specific places for transporting crabs and when such motor boats/trawlers enter the Sundarban, the local station office authorities will strictly check the boats/trawlers and allow them to enter the Sundarban, so that no illegal items, which can destroy the biodiversity and plant diversity of the Sundarban, should be introduced in the Sundarban.
6. Officials of the local administration, law enforcement agencies, agriculture department, fisheries department and forest department in the Sundarban area should regularly search the local markets, drug stores along with the shops selling fertilizers, medicines and seeds for agriculture to ensure that no unauthorized poisons are sold in the area.
7. Strict action should be taken if any illegal goods are found in the hands of crab harvesters, fishermen and other professions while entering Sundarban after collecting the pass or staying in the Sundarban.
Besides, if fishing is poisoned or crabs are caught by 'charo method', all passengers of that boat should be banned from entering the Sundarban for a certain period if necessary, the HC verdict said.
Advocate Al Faisal Siddique appeared on behalf of the petitioner while Deputy Attorney General Bipul Baghmar for the state during the hearing on the petition.
Siddique told this correspondent that the Forest Department has permission to transport all types of fish from Dubla char using registered trawlers. However, if crabs are not allowed to be carried by trawlers, many crabs would die due to delay in bringing those to Khulna after catching them.
In this situation, fishermen and crab harvesters of Dakop and Batiaghata areas on August 12 in 2018 submitted an application to the Chief Conservator of Forests, seeking permission for transporting crabs in engine-run boats. The fishermen filed a writ petition in the High Court that year as the Forest Department did not respond to their application.
The High Court ordered to dispose of the application within 30 days.
Later, the Department of Forest dismissed the application on December 5 of that year and did not allow transport of the crabs.
Eight people, including one Jahan Ali Gazi, filed a writ petition in 2019 challenging the decision of the Forest Department. The High Court delivered a verdict in this regard on September 16 in 2021.
In its verdict, the HC said that a section of fishermen collected passes for fishing in the Sundarban and poison the canals flowing inside the Sundarbans for their purpose. As a result, all kinds of flora and fauna are destroyed in the poisoned canals. If fish extraction continues inside the Sundarban by applying such poisons, one day the entire Sundarban area will be devoid of fish and the flora and fauna of the Sundarbans will be completely destroyed.
Siddique said that usually, many fishermen and poachers use lethal poison in rivers, canals and other water bodies in the Sundarban to catch shrimps, crabs and other fishes. But, use of such poison puts fishes and biodiversity in the Sundarban at risk, he added.
He also alleged that a section of fishermen is involved in poisoning canals in the Sundarban by using poison during fishing even after collecting legal passes for fishing there, which were sold in the markets posing serious health hazards for consumers.
He hoped that the authorities concerned would take appropriate steps in line with the High Court observations in order to save biodiversity of the world's largest mangrove forest the Sundarban.

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