Monday, January 22, 2018 | ePaper
Gross mismanagement has gobbled up our forests
THE country's natural forest reserves faced the highest deforestation between 2006 and 2014 due to the Forest Department's (DoF) repeated failure to play its role, mainly due to irregularities in forest management. Studies using remote-sensing technology by local and foreign agencies have found conversion of forests to agriculture and scrub lands, which indicates indiscriminate cutting of trees. However, several assessments, cited in government documents have also found weak enforcement of forest laws, insufficient demarcation of forest boundaries; non-sustainable forest management and growing demand of land for industrial and infrastructural development to be the major causes of rampant deforestation.
The question involuntarily arises, what was the Forest Department doing in all these years? Also now since the irreparable damage has been done to our forest reserves - who would shoulder the responsibilities?
Former forest officials pointed out that the plundering of forest resources were done mainly by government officials and unscrupulous local inhabitants. The culprits are not in any capacity facing music and instead it is the country's bio-diversity and environment that has bear the brunt of fast deforestation. The overall wildlife population has been massively reduced in the country.
A study titled 'Development of National Database on Long-Term Deforestation 1930-2014 in Bangladesh' revealed the negative change in the country's forest canopy density. According to the study, dense forests and open forests occupied 51.3 per cent and 48.7 per cent respectively of total forest area in 1975. The ratio changed in 2014 with dense forests at 46 per cent and open forest at 53 per cent, an indication of forest degradation. This percentage is excluding of the hundreds acres of forests cleaned up for sheltering the Rohingya refugees at Teknaf.
Over the past decades DoF had almost no control over the hill forests. Almost all the ethnic community-based insurgent groups and settlers from the plains have been destroying our hill forests. This must stop before Bangladesh becomes completely deforested any time soon. Against the countrywide demand for 25 per cent forest, Bangladesh now has less than 10 per cent.
Apart from reclaiming the lost forests, government should bring the seven lakh hectares of CHT forestland under Deputy Commissioners' office of three hill districts and also under the jurisdiction of DoF. If need be, Jhum cultivation in the hills must be stopped. Most importantly the forest acts must be enforced countrywide to stop destruction of forests.
We have seen how rampant deforestation has hugely affected the country's overall weather conditions last year. If we don't stand against deforestation right away - nature's revenge will get even harsher.