Modhupur Sal forest and the Protection of Forest Rights, Bangladesh

Denial of rights of the forest dwelling tribal communities, use of forest land for non-forest purposes, and commercial plantation in the natural Sal Forest have given rise to deadly conflicts


The tropical moist deciduous Sal Forest of Bangladesh that once extended from Dinajpur in the north to the extreme edge of Comilla, straddling the central region of Gazipur, Tangail, Mymensing and Dhaka spreading around 78199.80 hectars of land is almost gone now. Currently only 10% of the Sal Forests have Sal trees (scientific name Shorea robusta) with small patches in Dinajpur, Tangail, Mymensing and Dhaka districts. Among the existing patches of the Sal forest, the Sal Forest of Modhupur officially occupies around 18615.54 hectars. This forest extends from the Charaljani mouja to Rasulpur mouja from north to south and from Sholakuri mouja to Mahishmara mouja from east to west. The Government attempted to give the Forest different legal status as that of Reserve Forest and National Park under the Forest Act, 1927 and the Wild Life Protection Order, 1973 (now repealed) respectively.

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Basic Data
NameModhupur Sal forest and the Protection of Forest Rights, Bangladesh
SiteDistrict of Tangail
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Biodiversity conservation conflicts
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Deforestation
Establishment of reserves/national parks
Plantation conflicts (incl. Pulp
Specific CommoditiesLand
Fruits and Vegetables
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsThe areas under conflict include the following moujas (land administrative units) Chunia, Beribaid, Aushnara, Holdia, Mohishmara, Joinatoil, Betbari, Idilpur, Pirojpur, Ramkrishnobari, Laufola, Fulbagicha, Sholakuri, Joramgachha, Pirgachha, Arankhola, Chapaid, Gachhabari, Rasulpur, and Bijoypur While the indigenous forest dwellers have always opposed the initiatives of the government to bring the said forested moujas under their control in the name of protected area management due to non- settlement of their rights, the national level environmental advocates never welcomed such initiatives as the same only increase the control of the Forest Department control over the Forest land without imposing any duties on them for protecting the Forest in its natural state.

The non-forest uses of the protected forest area of the Modhupur Sal forest remains the followings:

• 404.685 hectars of firing range (within the National Park area, in moujas Beribaid, areas Rajbari, Nagarmara and Gentchhua)

• Rubber plantation in 4400.062 hectars (within the National Park area and natural forest area; moujas Chapaid and Pirgachha)

• Operation of industries/commercial activities within the forest areas

• 2963.743 hectars under so-called social forestry planting non-native Eucalyptus, Acacia, Gamarin the Forest (period 2001-2007; the entire land for such social forestry was within the natural forest area; woodlot 1393.464 hectars, new woodlot 141.642 hectars; agro-forestry 726.629 hectars, Sal Coppice 701.700 hectars)

• Continuation of the social forestry project in the name of so-called Co-management projects since 2007

The Social Forestry Programs implemented in the Sal Forest under the Thana Afforestation and Nursery Project encouraged non-native, fast growing wood species. Depending on the species planted, the trees were cleared after a given rotation in order to distribute the sale proceeds amongst the beneficiaries selected under the social forestry agreements. This and other social forestry programs implemented in different names did not at all result in regeneration of the Sal Forest and protection of the native forest and its wildlife as the forest cover had to be cleared. Instead, the same simply resulted in replacement of the vast natural forest areas of native Sal with commercial plants causing fast disappearance of native wildlife and increased hardship of the forest dwellers. With the ending of the rotation of social forestry programs, vast areas of Modhupur Sal forest got barren and subsequently, in connivance with and taking advantage of the malpractices of some official of the Forest Department, were grabbed by some influential people for commercial banana and pineapple plantation.
Project Area (in hectares)18,615.54
Level of Investment (in USD)Not Applicable
Type of PopulationSemi-urban
Potential Affected Population63 thousand forest dwellers directly; 160 million people of the country indirectly
Start Date24/02/1982
Relevant government actorsMinistries of Environment and Forest; Ministry of Land; Department of Forests; Department of Environment; Deputy Commissioner, Tangail; Additional Deputy Commissioner (Rev), Tangail; Upazilla Revenue Officer, Upazila Chairman, Upazila Nirbahi Officer, Modhupur, Tangail; Assistant Commissioner (Land), Modhupur, Tangail; District Forest Officer, Tangail.
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersBangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA)

Joyenshahi Adivashi Unnayan Parishad

Jatiya Adhibasi Parishad
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)HIGH (widespread, mass mobilization, violence, arrests, etc...)
When did the mobilization beginMobilization for reparations once impacts have been felt
Groups MobilizingFarmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Local ejos
Social movements
Local scientists/professionals
Tribal communities of Garo and Kontch who are indigenous to the forest
Forms of MobilizationCommunity-based participative research (popular epidemiology studies, etc..)
Development of alternative proposals
Involvement of national and international NGOs
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Media based activism/alternative media
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Desertification/Drought, Food insecurity (crop damage), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover, Genetic contamination, Reduced ecological / hydrological connectivity, Other Environmental impacts
Other The problem has led to alarming shrinkage of natural Sal Forest
Health ImpactsVisible: Other Health impacts
OtherThe loss of traditional species has resulted in limited access to traditional health care.
Socio-economic ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Specific impacts on women, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
OtherLoss of indigenous culture and heritage
Project StatusIn operation
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseDeaths
Environmental improvements, rehabilitation/restoration of area
Land demarcation
Court decision (undecided)
Under negotiation
Two tribal protestors named Piren Slane and Cholesh Richil died during protests against forced attempt of the government to implement the eco-park project
Development of AlternativesA Writ Petition No. 1834 of 2010 has been filed with the High Court division specifically challenging the inactions, misdeeds, and arbitrary projects/ notifications of the Government and the Forest Department having bearing on the commercialization of the Forest and denial of the rights of the forest dwellers. The petitioners pleaded alternative management under Section 28 (Village Forests) of the Forest Act, 1927 that has strong elements of community forest management. On 16th March, 2010 the Court required all government agencies to show cause as to why they shall not be directed to-

- Correctly identify the borders of the Modhupur Sal Forest;

- Frame rules on village forestry as required under Section 28 of the Forest Act 1927 and ensure regeneration of the Modhupur Sal Forest through protection and enrichment plantation with indigenous species and with directed participation of the forest dependent people is envisaged in Section 28 of the Forest Act, 1927;

- Settle the rights of the member of the Garo and Kontch community who are indigenous forest dwellers of the Modhupur Sal Forest in accordance with section 92 of the SAT and following sections 6-19 of the Forest Act, 1927;

- Remove all unauthorized and illegal industrial/commercial entitles from the Modhupur Sal Forest;

- Stop commercial Banana/Pineapple plantation (without affecting the traditional cultivation of the tribal People) and other commercial plantations in the Modhupur Sal Forest;

- In the case of areas covered under social forestry agreements, undertake appropriate measures to gradually regenerate native forest in the said areas after the expiry of the existing agreements and/or such other further order or orders passed as to this Court may seem fit and proper.

Subsequently, on 19 January, 2012, the Court directed the Ministry of Environment and Forest to submit before the Court a comprehensive dossier with details of all forest dependent people and suggest measures on how to protect the Forest, its trees and the forest dependent people. As the Government didn’t respond to the show causes notices of the Court and went ahead in issuing the notification dated 31 March, 2016 declaring 3700.878 hectars of Forest land as reserve, once again without settling people’s rights, another notice was issued on the government agencies by the Court on 23 August, 2017 to show cause as to why this notification shall not be declared illegal and shall not be set aside.
Do you consider this as a success?Not Sure
Why? Explain briefly.In declaring part of the forest as reserve forest and in attempting to bring the area under government's control denying rights of forest dwelling tribal people, the government has clearly ignored the spirit of the show cause notice issued from the High Court. final decision will come from the High Court Division of the Supreme Court of Bangladesh. Although the legal battle is on to get the subsequent notification declared illegal, the same is being stiffly defended by the government during hearing. The hearing is also going lengthy due to the delay tactics taken by the government. Fate of the legal battle, the forest and the forest dwelling community will be decided by the final verdict of the Court and its implementation.
Sources and Materials

Articles 15, 18A, 21, 31, 32, 40 and 42 of the Constitution of Peoples’ Republic of Bangladesh
[click to view]

the Forest Act, 1927
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the Environment Conservation Rules, 1997
[click to view]

the State Acquisition and Tenancy Act, 1950
[click to view]

the Forestry Sector Master Plan, 1993-2012
[click to view]

the Bangladesh Environment Conservation Act, 1995 (Act No. 1 of 1995)
[click to view]

the Forest Policy, 1994
[click to view]

the Wildlife Protection Ordinance, 1973 (repealed)
[click to view]

Wildlife (Conservation & Forest) Act, 2012
[click to view]


A Study On The Legal Status Of The Mandi People's Land Rights in Modhupur Forest Area. Written by: Fazlous Sattar and Bangladesh Land Forest & Forest People. Published by: Society for Environment and Human Development (SEHD)
[click to view]

Media Links

Sal Forest, Modhupur, Tangail
[click to view]

Other Documents

Sal Forest Pictures Modhupur, Tangail
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Judgment Judgment of Sal Forest, Modhupur, Tangail
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Sal Forest Pictures Sal being replaced for cultivation of banana at a commercial scale
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Map Sal Forest
[click to view]

Meta Information
ContributorSyeda Rizwana Hasan, Bangladesh Environment Lawyers Association (BELA), [email protected]
Last update14/01/2019