Deforestation adds to green woes

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Saturday, 23 May 2015

Author / Source: Anisur Rahman Khan
The country’s forests have been
disappearing at an annual rate of about 2.1 per cent in the past three
decades due to deforestation, illegal logging, slash-and-burn
agriculture, conversion into non-forestland for settlements, farming,
recreation and industries.

Unclassified forest (UCF) areas in
Chittagong hill tracts are being destroyed indiscriminately by different
tribal people and the forest department is unable to prevent them due
to security reasons. Besides, a section of unscrupulous forest officers
and employees are in connivance with some influential locals involved in
deforestation.
These have posed a serious threat to the environment
as the country’s total forest cover has reduced to 11 per cent against
the minimum requirement of 20 per cent as per the coun­try’s size to
maintain environmental equilibrium.
According to the Bureau of
Statistics, Bangladesh has a total forest land area of 2.5 million
hectares, including nearly 0.8 million hectares of the Sundarbans and
coastal forests and 0.9 hectares in the CHT. CHT has 700,000 hectares of
completely deforested unclassified forest (UCF) and 355,000 hectares of
partly deforested reserve forest (RF) areas, according to experts.
Experts
said forests were a very important renewable resource in Bangladesh.
They provide materials such as timber, pulp, pole, fuel wood, food, and
medicine, habitat for wildlife and primary base for biodiversity. They
also provide oxygen, control or reduce the intensity of cyclones and
tidal surges in the coastal areas, influence rainfall, and sustained
water yield in the rivers. Besides, the forests are also used for
hunting, and nature-based tourism.
These days, eco-tourism is the
preferred type of tourism and it is widely believed that it could be an
alternative mechanism for sustainable environmental development without
depleting forest resources and biodiversity, according to forest
department (FD) sources. Notwithstanding the growing awareness for the
need to protect the environment, degradation has occurred rapidly during
the past three decades, FD sources said.
The country’s ecology is
damaged, forests depleted and biodiversity considerably degraded,
experts said, adding that the natural forests of Bangladesh have been
declining at a rate of 2.1 per cent annually over the 20-year period
which ended in the early 1980s.
Also, the natural forests were
dwindling at a rate of 2.7 per cent in the period from 1984–1990. As a
consequence of population pressure, they are also under serious threat,
with most of the forest lands being encroached upon by the local people.
Policies are needed for sustainable management of the remaining
forests, experts maintained. “We’ve not enough forest cover as per our
requirements. A section of greedy people are indiscriminately destroying
forests, posing a dire threat for the country’s biodiversity,” Prof.
Jahir Bin Alam of Shahjalal University of Science and Technology (SUST)
told The Independent.
Alam, who is a professor of environmental
science in SUST, had conducted a case study on Sylhet forests in 2007.
He found that 23 per cent of forests in the area were destroyed. “The
settlement of people and forests have come closer and closer since the
country’s independence. As a result, the rate of disappearance of
forests has become faster,” Professor Narayan Saha, head of forestry and
environmental science, SUST, told The Independent. He doubted whether
the forest department possessed 18 per cent of forest land, and said the
figure must be less than 11 per cent.
Saha also observed that there
are only 9 per cent of tree-covered forests left in the country. “It has
become very difficult to protect UCF in Chittagong hill tracts. The
tribal people and settlers are responsible for the destruction of the
UCF. We’re unable to do anything because of security concerns,” Md Yunus
Ali, chief conservator of forest (CCF) of FD, told The Independent. He,
however, denied the involvement of any forest official in
deforestation.
At least 726 animal and 90 plant species have become
extinct since 1500. Most of the known extinctions in the past several
hundred years have occurred on oceanic islands, where small land masses
limit the size of populations and human intrusions are the most severe.
According to UNEP estimates, some 24 per cent of mammal (1,130) and 12
per cent of bird species (1,183) in the world are threatened.
http://www.theindependentbd.com/index.php?option=com_content&view=article&id=259081:deforestation-adds-to-green-woes&catid=129:frontpage&Itemid=121