Forests contribute to the economy and maintain ecological stability. Despite being a selfless auxiliary, forests in Bangladesh have been depleted and degraded in volume and area over the years. Bangladesh, the largest Delta in the world, situated in South-east Asia, has a unique geographic location (20o34’N – 26o38’N latitude, and 88o1’E – 92o41’E longitude). Spanning a relatively short stretch of land between the mighty Himalayas to the north and the open Indian Ocean to the south, the country can be classified into physio-graphical regions, like – flood plains
occupying about 80%, terraces about 8% and hills about 12% of the land area. The forest type in Bangladesh plays a significant role in the country’s economy. It contributes to the livelihood and subsistence needs of the predominantly rural population. It provides a source of energy, supplies forest products such as fuel-wood, fodder, timber, poles, thatching grass, medicinal herbs, and construction materials, and contributes to the conservation and improvement of the country’s environment. There are four major types of forests in Bangladesh depending up-on their ecosystems, which are –
- The Mangrove forests
- The Tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forests
- The Tropical moist deciduous forests
- The Village Patchy Forests
Forest resources are an important part of the econ
my of Bangladesh. They are renewable resources, which can provide timber, pulp, poles, fuel wood, food, medicine, and habitat for wildlife and a primary basis for biodiversity. It can also provide oxygen, control or reduce the intensity of cyclones and tidal surges in the coastal areas, influence the rainfall and sustained water yield in the river systems, etc. More-over, these forests are also used for hunting and nature based tourism. Nowadays, eco-tourism is the more attractive type of tourism, which could be an alternative mechanism for environmentally sustainable development without depleting the forest re-sources and its habitat and biodiversity. The Forest Department works as an integral part of the ministry of Environments and Forests and is empowered to superintend forest resources and governmental for-est lands. A country must have 25% forestland, whereas, according to the Forest Department, Bangladesh has 46,52,250 acres, which is around 12.76% of the total area. Among the multiple factors behind this impropriety with the forests, some are-migrants who decided to move to the forests due to the problems in their place of origin, the timber industries, which legally or not, cut too many trees, grazing and browsing, transforming the forest lands into agricultural lands, and unjust use of forest wood, particularly in the brick fields and other industries. There is a fundamental difference between past and present forest management in Bangladesh. It depends on its objectives and philosophy. Present forest management objectives are not only to produce timber, but also to provide clean air, clean water, and a healthy habitat for wildlife, and to act as a major source of biodiversity and nature-based tourism. The present philosophy of forest management is to involve people in the management and create an environment so that people can feel that they have some stakes in the trees growing on the forest land and to improve the living standards of the people residing in the vicinity of the forest.
A report by TIB suggests that forest lands have de-creased by around 4,32,250 acres over the last two decades. The report adds that the forest department managed to rescue only 8792 acres in the last 5 years. Up to the year 2019, 2,87,453 acres of land were possessed through illegal collusion. The Forest Department has been vested with the proprietorship of forests, whereas the Department of Environment was only given the monitoring and enforcement capacity. The research by TIB discovered up to 61% embezzlement during the allotment of funds for accomplishing forestation projects by the Forest Department and the policymakers at the upper echelon. Department and the policymakers in the upper echelon. In the appointment and transfer of departmental posts such as forest range officers, beat officers, chief or deputy chief conservator, project director, divisional forest officers, etc. in the department, large sums of money are transacted.
The Rules, 2004 dictate clearly who will be listed as the beneficiaries. However, in reality, exactly the opposite scenario has been witnessed. There is direct or indirect intervention in the selection of beneficiaries.
One can easily get access to protected forests by get-ting a license from the Forest Department. Once someone gets the license, he gets all the authority to extract wood and forest products from the forest. To expedite the regulations of protected forests, the co-management process was launched through the Protected Area Rules. In reality, only 3-4 of the total protected forests are guided by the rules. So, the Protected Area Rules are not functional in Verite. The subject of sustainable and accountable forest management is in question.
Forests cover a third of all land on Earth, providing vital organic infrastructure for some of the planet’s densest, most diverse collections of life. They sup-port countless species as well as 1.6 billion human livelihoods, yet humans are also responsible for widespread deforestation, clearing millions of forested acres every year. The United Nations declared March 21 the International Day of Forests in late 2012, part of a global effort to publicize both the value and plight of woodlands around the world. Trees and forested ecosystems are a critical part of our earth, our economy and our way of life, from reducing carbon pollution and purifying groundwater to providing timber for buildings and pulp for paper products. Forest Management is a STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics) major that prepares graduates to sustainably manage our natural forest ecosystems and forest plantations.
A recent survey conducted by FAO found that the rate of deforestation has increased to 37,700 hectares per year. The research by USAID and CIDA also shows that 50% of the total forests have been destroyed within the last 20 years. According to the estimation of the forest resource management project, the ratio of supply and demand for timber and fuel wood is drastically inconsistent. So, it is high time we made the Forest Department more function-al and accountable and saved our forests from deforestation by implementing a dynamic forest law.
Author is a Student of Jatiya Kabi Kazi Nazrul Islam University
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