Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has directed the authorities concerned to conduct a digital survey immediately about the latest situation of all the forests across the country to take effective steps to protect the forests.

She gave the directive while chairing the Cabinet meeting, joining virtually from her official residence in Ganabhaban, on Thursday.

“The prime minister has instructed to conduct a digital survey immediately over all the forests, maintaining coordination among the Land Ministry and the Environment and Forest Ministry as well as the Deputy Commissioners concerned,” said Cabinet Secretary Khandker Anwarul Islam while briefing reporters after the meeting.

He said the premier stressed the need for taking measures on completion of the digital survey for permanent settlement of the people living inside the forests.

The cabinet secretary said that the prime minister had directed the authorities concerned to go for reforestation and to engage the local people in it, sharing the tree ownership with them.

She said: “If the local people can be engaged in reforestation in the forest lands, they will not damage the forests anymore.”

Many people living in different forest areas, including Modubangarh of Tangail, Garo hills of Sherpur, Chittagong Hill tracts and the Sundarbans are badly suffering due to a huge forest related case, said Anwarul, adding that even a single person is facing 40-50 legal suits.

About the cases, the prime minister gave a clear instruction to review the cases and withdraw immediately the cases with no logical ground in a bid to give the people relief.

She also asked to conduct a campaign so that the people would not be involved in such cases anymore.

The Cabinet in principle approved the draft of Attia Forest (Reservation) Act 2021 to protect the Attia forest on 45000-46000 acres of land (in Dhaka and Tangail districts).

The cabinet secretary said: “The proposed law will replace the Attia Forest (Protection) Ordinance 1982.” The Attia forest was first declared a reserved forest through a law in the 1920s.

According to the law, damaging the forest is a non-bailable offense, he said.

In this regard, the premier asked to conduct the digital survey on the Attia forest first and then on other forests gradually.

Besides, the Cabinet in principle approved the draft of Copyright Act 2021 with a provision that the validity of intellectual property right of any work would be sixty years.

The Cabinet, however, did not approve the draft of Drugs Act 2021 rather asked the authorities concerned to review it further.

On the other hand, a new campaign to vaccinate school students, aged 12-16, against Covid-19 will kick off at 12 centers in Dhaka on November 1.

The premier asked the officials concerned to increase the number of centres across the country under this campaign.

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