Dwindling forests | The Daily Star
11:00 PM, September 08, 2009 / LAST MODIFIED: 11:00 PM, September 08, 2009

Dwindling forests

Photo: Mohammad Islam /Driknews

The accepted standard, according to the experts, is that a country must have at least 25 percent of its total land area covered with forests. According to the forestry related sources, a total of 7,69000 hectares or only 7.29 percent of Bangladesh's landmass have tree cover.
Indiscriminate felling of trees during last decades in the greater districts of Dhaka, Mymensingh, Rajshahi, Rangpur, and Dinajpur resulted in an alarming depletion of forest resources. For example, on 21 August Daily Star's report (by Pinaki Roy) said that in Madhupur the forest coverage reduced from 3,826 hectares in 1962 to 594 hectares in 2003.
In Bangladesh, population explosion has left the most adverse impact on the forests, and the increasing demand for agricultural land, shelter and fuel took a heavy toll on the country's forest resources since the early 20th century. The population of this country was 40 million during 1910's but it's jumped to about 150 million now. In the 1980s, the rate of destruction of forests in the country was 8,000 hectares per year. According to a recent survey of various international organizations, this rate has gone up to 37, 700 hectares per year. Most experts think that the desertification process in Bangladesh started in central Barind area in the country's north-western part. They fear that if this process continues, a large chunk of Bangladesh's land area will turn into desert.
A massive expansion of commercial shrimp culture recently appeared to be the latest threat to forests in the country's southern coastal areas, especially in Khulna, Satkhira and Cox's Bazar regions. Thus the coastal zone is becoming unprotected.
The forest officials blame illegal encroachment by the local people and over exploitation of forest resources as the immediate reasons for fast depletion of woodlands in Bangladesh. On the other hand, shortage of manpower of the Forest Department is responsible for its failure in properly maintaining the forest resources.
Realizing the alarming situation of low forest coverage, the government has set a goal to increase the forest coverage to 25 percent by 2015, but today the vexing question is how far different agencies have been able to implement the programmes aimed at 25 percent forest coverage by 2015. The quantity and quality of forest resources in Bangladesh are deteriorating with time. Though different plantation programmes increased the vegetation cover of the country but we have to remember that plantation is not equal to forest cover. Forestry requires a systematic, long-term approach and sound policy. Now quick action should be taken by the government to protect the natural forest cover of Bangladesh.

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