Lawachhera Forest: Eco damage feared from Chevron's seismic survey

Lawachhera Forest: Eco damage feared from Chevron's seismic survey

US oil company Chevron Bangladesh starts a three-dimensional seismic survey on eco-sensitive Lawachhera Reserve Forest next month for better understanding the reserves of the nearby Moulvibazar gas field amid concerns expressed by environmentalists.

Environmentalists fear the three-dimensional survey might inflict colossal damage to the small but very resourceful forest that is home to many endangered wildlife, flora and fauna. Even the noise caused by the survey will harm the wildlife habitat.

Chevron says the survey does not aim at drilling any wells in the forest, cutting down trees, or disturbing the wildlife. It will rather help Chevron increase gas production capacity of the Moulvibazar field.

The survey will be by and large noise free, except the use of small drill-pumps, which will be equipped with best quality mufflers to reduce noise, and small charges of biodegradable seismic explosives. This source is safe and will leave extremely low impact on environment, claims Naser Ahmed, Chevron external affairs director.

The seismic programme given site clearance by the Department of Environment covers an area of about 152 square kilometers over Moulvibazar gas field and between the towns of Srimongol and Kamalganj in block 14. About 20 percent of the survey area covers the reserve forest.

The initial scouting and positioning fieldwork began in mid-January. The project is expected to finish in June this year.

Environmentalists from home and abroad, researchers of wild life and botany, and officials of the ‘Nishargo Support Project’- a project to preserve the reserve forest – have expressed their concern over the survey for oil and gas exploration. They said bio-diversity and environment will be seriously threatened.

Dr Elot Hiymof, a US researcher of the wild life, told journalists Lawachhera is a rare kind of forest that is still home to endangered species of plants, shrubs, creepers, floras and other wildlife.

Dr Hiymof had earlier made a documentary on Lawachhera Reserve Forest in December last year with the help of ‘Wild Life Trust of Bangladesh’. He was assisted by wild life researchers from Japan, the UK and Bangladesh.

Hiymof said any type of noise pollution will be very harmful to the wildlife of this rich forest. He urged all concerned to save this forest from pollution.

The forest department had started its ‘Nisorgo Support Project’ at Lawachhera in 2003 to protect and preserve environment and bio-diversity of this forest.

According to the Nisorgo Support project, the reserve forest is spread on 1,250 hectares of land in Kamalganj upazila of Moulvibazar district. Of these total area, 3 thousand acres of land was brought under the Nisorgo Support Project.

There are plants of 167 species, 4 species of amphibious animals, 6 species of reptile, 20 species of breast sucker animals, and 246 species of bird. Of the wild life in this forest, there are Spiders of over hundred species, different types of Monkey, wild chicken, crab, fishing cat, nearly extinguished animals like gibbon, blackface monkey, mirage, modest monkey, white tiger, short-tail monkey, squirrel, snake, butter-fly, different warms and insects, wild pig, lizard, marten, civet etc. Among the plants, there are Cha-polish, Dumur, black-berry, rose-berry, Segun, Talsur, Batna, Awaal, Kanak, Bonak, Rata, iron-wood, Jarul, Amloki, Udol, Raktan, Lotkon, Gummer, Bamboos etc. Environmentalists and researchers are saying there are 400 species of wild life and birds in the Lawachhera reserve forest.

The Sylhet divisional office of the wild life management and nature protection department of the Department of Forest, Nishorgo Support Project, and various researchers said that the Chevron has taken the programme without preliminary assessment of environment, site clearance from the environment ministry, Environmental Impact Assessment, and Environmental Clearance. According to the section 23 (3) of ‘Wild life preservation (Amended) act of 1974, this type of survey has been strictly prohibited. So there is no scope to conduct geological survey in a forest like Lawachhera.

Co-management committee of the Nishorgo Support Project in a recent emergency meeting expressed their concern that the survey will scare the wild life of the forest. Shock waves created by explosion of survey materials will put a negative impact on flora and fauna of the forest, it was said in the meeting.

Md Abul Basar Miah, the Divisional Forest Conservator (wild life management and nature preservation department) Sylhet, said- to protect biodiversity and create sanctuary, the Nishorgo Support Project was started from 2003. But the Chevron has not get approval from the Nishorgo Support Project as well as the forest department to conduct the survey. The forest department of Sylhet is still remain in the dark about the survey. He added that the Forest Department’s head office has sought the opinion of the ‘Lawachhera National Park’ on the proposed survey of the Chevron. The opinion was submitted in due time.

Abul Bashar Miah further said, it was stated in their opinion to the head office that transportation of goods used for survey, movement of people engaged with survey, and sound created by machineries will damage the natural climate of the forest and roots of plants and trees will by damaged and food chain of fauna and flora in the forest will also be destroyed. They suggested that it will not be proper to allow Chevron to conduct the survey in and around the Lawachhera Reserve Forest which has declared as national park by the government, he added.

Chevron director Naser Ahmed says that the environment ministry has given site clearance for the survey. "An extensive Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has already been completed and submitted to the Department of Environment. The EIA report includes an Environmental Management Plan (EMP), which requires that project activities will be monitored by the Ministry of Environment and Forest along with independent environmental specialists to ensure compliance," he said.

Naser Ahmed claimed to this correspondent that as his company has ‘strong environmental track record’. Chevron will place the highest priority on the protection of the environment.

Naser added that during the survey, no vehicles will be allowed in the forest and only lightweight man-portable equipment will be used, which will be hand carried on existing trails. Besides, a minimum number of people will work in the forest during the daylight hours only. No waste will be left in the forest.

“Steps will be taken so that wildlife remain undisturbed. Animal behavior will be monitored by a specialist monitoring team to ensure this. No trees at all will be cut during the project. To achieve this, only existing trails and clearings will be used," he pointed out.

Link and news posted by Anim Anamika | original source Daily Star

Place your ads here!

No comments

Write a comment
No Comments Yet! You can be first to comment this post!

Write a Comment