Monday, June 24, 2019 | ePaper

Stop destroying forest

Environment-based campaign is urgent to uphold the critical issue

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Shishir Reza :
The international day of forest was observed on 21st March with a view to awaring mass people on forest ecosystem. This year the theme of forest day was '' forests and education''. The economic value of carbon sequestration becomes increasingly recognized and qualified in the global marketplace. In order to estimate the valuation of ecosystem services and livelihood, it is necessary to identify a set of indicators that allow them to measure the contribution of these benefits in economic terms. Economic contributions are - food security, human health amelioration, sustainable livelihoods, disaster mitigation and climate change adaptation. Also, average protein take per person from food resources from forests can be used as indicators.
It reduces and mitigates natural disaster. Coastal forests are protecting life and properties from devastating cyclones, landslide, wind and surges; mitigating floods and droughts of the locality. In Bangladesh, hilly people depend completely on natural flows of streams originated in forests for their water, values of such ecosystem is the construction for structures made for supplying water to city dwellers. Energy generated by water sources that originate from the forests.
After all, healthy forest ecosystem clean the water we drink and produce the air we breathe, the foods we eat, the medicine that cure and protect us and the materials that form our shelter and clothing. But, the land-use pattern of Bangladesh is changing very rapidly due to alterations in physiographic and socio-economic conditions, climatic change adaptation and population growth. Forests cover 31% of the world's land surface. Estimated 25% area of any country should be covered with trees and forest, for many reasons like production of wood, elimination of pollution, green natural environment, healthy air and many others. Bangladesh has 15% of the landmass designated as forests.
Sustainable management of forest has been recognized in the earth summit at Rio and it has been stressed the need for enhancing the tree cover to 33% by 2012 to combat the global warming. Understanding the importance of forest conservation in adapting to climate change, the Parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has agreed to start the global reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Conference of Parties (COP-10) raised concern about the biodiversity that is not achieved and a short new plan 'strategic plan for Biodiversity 2011-20' has come to be achieved by 2020.  
We the Bangladeshis have been experiencing some of the worst effects of climate change which are particularly responsible for most of the rural to urban migration, environmental deterioration, and food insecurity. But the crises are also closely related to land encroachment of forest and river, alien species cultivation in forest, clash in char-land, deforestation, trafficking of wildlife and violation of eco-industrial laws. An estimated 96,000 ha of forest land was encroached in 2010. As far as government development program is concerned, over 46000 ha of land (75% of forest) was submerged and lost when Kaptai Hydraulic Dam was built in the 1960.
Among the threatened medicinal plant species in Bangladesh, 2 are critically endangered, 2 are endangered, 81 are vulnerable, 109 are conservation dependent and 52 are near threatened species. Percentage  of total values are 0.12% is critically endangered, 1.62% endangered, 5.05% vulnerable, 6.79% conservation dependent, 3.24% near threatened, 22.93% not evaluated and 57.26% are least concerned. About 220 species of vertebrates, including fish, amphibians, reptiles, birds and mammals have been listed in Red Data Book of Bangladesh as they are faced with the threat of extinction.
Land use conversion affects both the amount and spatial pattern of forest habitat, which in turn can affect the ecological function and future development of remaining forest lands. Habitat fragmentation and transportation corridors can create migration barriers or inhospitable habitats for wildlife and interfere with other ecological processes.
Loss of forest impedes evapotranspiration cycle, resulting in less rainfall and causing drier conditions over broad surrounding areas, sometimes leading to draught, increased flooding and erosion of sediment into rivers, disrupting river ecosystems. All forests contain large amounts of carbon. When they are destroyed, the burning or decomposition of forest matter releases this carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a green house gas, absorbing solar heat within the atmosphere.   
Other side, we have plethora of laws and policies - Environment Conservation Act, 1995 (Amendment 2000, 2002); Environmental Conservation Rules, 1997; Environment Court Act, 2000 (Amendment, 2002); The Wildlife Preservation Order, 1973; The Forest Act, 1927 (Amendment 1990, 2000); Bio-safety Guidelines of Bangladesh, 2007; National Biodiversity Framework, 2007; Bangladesh Bio-safety Rules, 2010. But a gap between policy formation and enforcement of environmental regulations in Bangladesh is widely characterized less transparent functioning of environmental institution, poor administrative practices, lack of manpower and active public participation in the grass- root level.    
In order to safeguard the remaining forests and increasing forest cover in Bangladesh the national Forest Policy, 1994 evidently envisages three outstanding courses of action: firstly, afforestation of marginal land all over the country involving the NGOs and participation of local people; secondly, all state-owned forests of natural origin and the plantations of the hill and sal forest will be used for producing forest resources, conserving soil and water resources and maintaining the biodiversity; thirdly, because of the scarcity of forest land, state-owned reserved forest cannot be used for non-forestry purposes without the permission of the head of the government.
Due to the current demand of the forest resources and the impact of human activities on forest change, monitoring of the forest resources is essential in providing data for making policy decisions and generating management plans to enhance the forest cover and sustainable development. Side by side, biodiversity and environment based campaign is also urgent to uphold the critical issues of forest resources. We have to spread the education of forests among children's, teachers, grass-root propels, indigenous peoples to save our forest ecology.

(Shishir Reza, Environmental Analyst & Associate Member of Bangladesh Economic Association)

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