Cox's Bazar Forest Department (North) often conducts eviction drives against illegal grabbing of forest lands but the authorities are indifferent towards a roadside picturesque building being constructed after demolishing hills and social forestry in Napitkhali area of Fulchhari range for a "mysterious" reason.
There have been allegations that the building owner, Firoz Ahmed, locally known as an informant of police, has "managed" all the departments and the authorities concerned so that the structure can be built illegally.
Near Eidgaon Police Station and Fakira Bazar on the Cox's Bazar-Chattogram highway, the gigantic building is being built on two acres of land enclosed by barbwires. A house with a tin canopy has also been built next to the building for rent.
Firoz has an office named Sonali Enterprise across the police station. He has proximity with many political leaders, including ruling party members and other local influential people, who come to the office regularly.
As the Department of Environment or any other agency has not stopped the construction of the building that started a year ago, Firoz's people are spreading the information that he is constructing the state-of-the-art building by managing all sectors, including the forest department, for Tk25 lakh.
Moreover, police members of the new Eidgaon Police Station will stay in the building free of cost.
"The land was occupied by Mamtazul Uloom Madrasa. I took possession from the madrasa authorities for Tk5 lakh. Innumerable houses have sprung up in the entire greater Eidgaon area by occupying forest lands. Where is the fault if I do so?" Firoz said.
Regarding the rumour of the Tk25 lakh bribe, he said, "I have done what others have done to build houses in forest lands. Union Parishad chairmen, socially influential people, ruling party members, and their relatives come to my office as I do business with them as part of a syndicate. I have worked with the police for a long time. Probably, that is why police have not stopped me from constructing the building out of respect for me."
The director of Mamtazul Uloom Madrasa was called several times for comment on the occupation and sale of forest land, but he did not answer.
Fulchhari Range Forest Officer Mazharul Islam said many people brought up the issue of Firoz's building during various eviction drives at the beginning of this year. "He is constructing the building on land which is part of the 2007-08 social forestry project. He cut down trees and hills indiscriminately."
"Many influential people, political leaders, several chairmen, etc have called me in support of Firoz. I do not know what happened before but I am always ready to take action against him if the law enforcing agencies cooperate with me," he added.
Eidgaon Police Station Officer-in-Charge Md Abdul Halim said, "I have heard that Firoz has committed various misdeeds when he was an informant of the police. Since I joined here, I banned him from entering the police station."
"The government pays our rent and none of our members will ever stay at his place free of cost. If the forest department wants, we will give full cooperation for eviction," he added.
Cox's Bazar (North) Forest Divisional Forest Officer Tahidul Islam said, "I have heard about the building. Whether the allegation of bribe is true or false can be determined after we recover the forest land from him through legal procedures."