A new protected forest area namely “Dudhpukuria-Dhupchara Wildlife Sanctuary” was formally opened near Rangunia in Chittagong yesterday.
State Minister for Environment and Forest Hasan Mahmud and US Ambassador in Dhaka James F Moriarty inaugurated the opening ceremony of the forest.
The government on April 6 declared this area and three others as protected forests.
This declaration added almost 10,000 hectares of severely threatened natural areas into the country's protected area network.
With this declaration, about 260,000 hectares of land across Bangladesh are now protected, according to a press release of the US Embassy.
The US government, through the United States Agency for International Development (USAID) funded Integrated Protected Area Co-management (IPAC) Project, promoted the Bangladesh government's declaration of these four ecologically significant natural areas.
At the inaugural function, Moriarty said Bangladesh needs to vigorously expand the protected forest areas to conserve natural resources and wildlife as the country has already lost over 90 percent of its forest cover.
“Millions of people are directly dependent on its forests and wetlands. For the good of these people, Bangladesh must expand protected areas to conserve natural resources, while at the same time ensuring people who live in and around these areas can make a living,” he said.
He said the US government helps to train local people and local governments for better management of natural resources, restore degraded areas, raise public awareness and increase earnings from these natural resources.
The state minister said the government will enact a new wildlife protection act soon and introduce wildlife conservation award this year.
He said due to population pressure overuse of natural resources, deforestation, degradation, habitat loss, killing and hunting of wild animal, animal biodiversity is reducing day by day. Most of the plants and animals are threatened or endangered.
“We know forests are meeting public demand of timber, fuel wood, bamboo and other minor forest products. So we like to conserve forest for future generation,” he said, adding the concept of Production Forestry of the forest department has been changed to Conservation Forestry.
The state minister said to boost up eco-tourism, wild life conservation, recreation, education and research his ministry has declared 23 protected areas covering 258,703 hectares, seven eco-parks covering 7,861 hectares and two safari parks covering 2,442 hectares.
Dudpukuria-Dhopachari Wildlife Sanctuary covers an area of 4,716 hectares under Khurosia and Dhopchari range of Chittagong South Forest. This is also a part of IPAC (Integrated Protected Area Co-Management) project.
IPAC will assist the ministry of environment and forest (MoEF) to establish a co-management committee consisting of people living in and around the new protected areas to manage them.
Benefiting 2.5 million people, the IPAC project is working together with the MoEF to better manage 50 wetland and forest protected areas throughout Bangladesh.
The US government will assist the government of Bangladesh to establish a transparent governance system in and around the protected areas and ensure participation from the local government as well as the local community in managing these protected areas.
USAID Mission Director Denise Rollins and Chief Conservator of Forests Abdul Mutaleb also spoke at the function.
After the inauguration, Hasan and Moriarty released three Maya Deer into the forest.