Rows of eucalyptus trees mark Food Godown Road at Khalilganj of Kurigram town as locals, hardly aware of the eventual bad effects of the towering foreign species on soil fertility and ecology, grow it for mere profit. Inset, eucalyptus saplings grown at the nursery of Mansur Ali in the town.Photo: STAR
Defying a ban on eucalyptus, the nurseries in the district have kept on producing and selling saplings of the harmful tree.
Botanists and agriculturists said that eucalyptus, originating in Australia, is highly detrimental to our ecology mainly because its rate of transpiration is extremely high.
Pollen emission from its flowers is also high, which may cause respiratory problems to humans, they said.
Eucalyptus is also inhospitable to local birds and insects, they added.
Besides, its leaves take much longer time to degrade in the nature, causing cementation of the ground. The leaves and its fruits are also rejected by herbivorous animals.
The eucalyptus plantation in the district is so extensive that it can be found in numbers on every yard, office premises, by the roadsides and along the railway tracks. Its popularity is mainly due to its quick growth and demand for its cheap timber and fuel wood in the rural areas.
Head of the Botany Department of Kurigram Government College, Mirza Md. Nasir Uddin said that an eucalyptus tree absorbs water 20 times more than any other tree in the country.
â€œThe tree produces a kind of chemical called aleopathy which makes it impossible for other trees to grow near it,â€ said Nasir Uddin, adding that eucalyptus is not fit for the country's ecology, he added.
Deputy director at Department of Agriculture Extension (DAE) in Kurigram, Prodip Kumar Mondal said that the eucalyptus transpires so heavily that it absorbs the groundwater at a much quicker rate than any other trees.
While most people remain unaware of the bad effects of this menacing tree, the forest department officials said they had no fund to launch a campaign against plantation of eucalyptus.
Forest department sources said that so far 30 varieties of eucalyptus are found worldwide. In 1978, the government decided to import seeds of four species for forestation and agro forestry. But in 1995 when its bad effects were discovered, the ministry of environment and forest in an official order asked the forest department to exclude eucalyptus from its forestation programme and inform the people about its effects on the environment. But by then, the situation was out of hands as nurseries around the country already produced and sold the saplings in thousands.
Assistant Conservator of Forest (ACF) of Kurigram Md. Abdul Wadud Bhuiyan told this correspondent that in 2008 they officially asked the nursery owners' association to stop sale and plantation of all varieties of eucalyptus.
â€œThe government and non-government organisations should take up awareness campaigns immediately to inform people about its bad effect,â€ the ACF said.
A nursery owner in Kurigram town, Md. Monsur Ali, said that he was aware of the bad effects of the tree but had to grow the saplings for his own survival.
â€œWhen I stopped selling eucalyptus, my business suffered a lot while others made quick bucks", he said.