Two illegal ship-breaking yards evicted after five years

A joint team of district administration and forest department on 24 February 2014 evicted two ship breaking yards which were set up by destroying coastal forest in Sitakunda upazila of Chittagong five years back. SK Steel and SK Ship Breaking and Recycling were able to lease the land illegally in 2009, chopped down thousands of mangrove trees and started importing old ships for breaking on the beach. On 6 October 2013, the Supreme Court of Bangladesh declared the yards illegal, ordered them to be evicted and the trees to be replanted.

In July 2009, more than 14000 mangrove trees that had been planted with the support of the United Nations in order to protect the local communities against the devastating impact of cyclones and floods were felled down to make way for new ship breaking yards. Amongst the operators of the yards was a Bangladeshi Parliamentarian, who also ordered to illegally cut thousands of trees. Some of the tree-cutting took place during night time, and local communities only found out about it when it was too late.

In response to the tree-cutting, the Department of Forest, an agency of the Ministry of Environment and Forest that protects and manages the forests of Bangladesh, filed a case against the illegal ship breaking yards in 2009. Already in 2010, the High Court stated that ship breaking should not take place on the beach and on forest land. Moreover, it declared four ship breaking yards illegal that had been set up after cutting down the mangroves, and asked for afforestation. But ship breaking continued in the yards and the trees were not replanted. The Supreme Court decision of October 2013 supported the initial plea of the Forest Department, who has now taken action together with the District Administration and has evicted the illegal companies. Thousands of saplings have reappeared where ships were broken until recently.

On 13 July 2009, YPSA formed a human chain at the Chittagong Press Club premises in protest of the incidents of uprooting almost 15,000 trees in Sitakund costal area. YPSA organized social campaign to raise voice for ensuring workers’ rights and save the environment and ecology from the pollution that generated from the unsafe and uncontrolled ship breaking practices.