Sundarbans, already at the heart of a raging controversy over the building of power plants is now being systematically deforested. As per a report in this paper on October 3, large quantities of logs of various trees cut down in the Sundarbans are finding their way out of the forest under the very noses of the authorities. The cut logs are transported to saw mills in adjacent districts. Trade in illegal timber has been gaining momentum where loggers and corrupt officials band together to clear out precious trees from a UN heritage site.
The question is then precisely where do our priorities lie when it comes to building up resilience against climate change? It is a proven fact that the mangrove forest does much to ward off the worst effects of natural calamities like cyclone. While we have various programmes at both government and non-government level urging the plantation of trees, here we are, turning a blind eye to an illicit trade that is systematically reducing the number of trees in a protected forest. These are naturally grown trees that give the Sundarbans its beauty and take decades to grow to maturity; trees that save us from air pollution and reduce the carbon footprint.
Such arguments obviously fall on deaf ears as we find that the Coastguard West Zone (Mongla) impounded 416 cft of logs from April 15 to August 19 this year. Needless to say, we have no idea about how much more slipped through the net. Unfortunately for us, we fail to distinguish between protected and unprotected forest lands and when such illegal activity is backed up by local political patronage, the Sundarbans faces the same fate as other forest lands in the country.