Forests are no one's property to destroy at will

Save Manpura Island from mindless deforestation
Stumps of trees cut down by criminals at a forest in Bhola's Manpura Island. PHOTO: STAR

Worrying developments have been reported in the remote forests of Bhola's Manpura Island where trees are being cut down indiscriminately to fuel brick kilns or for other purposes. A report by The Daily Star on March 13 carried a picture that showed stumps of freshly cut trees surrounded by sawdust in one of the forests in the island. The practice of felling trees illegally has been reportedly going on for about eight years now, through collusion between local influentials and forest officials who profit from cutting trees, which has serious repercussions for the environment.

The importance of a forest or tree cover, which acts as a shield against natural disasters, cannot be stressed enough. Felling trees in such a manner is not only damaging to the biodiversity of a forest—it can also enhance the effects of floods and storms and lead to reduced rainfall, potentially affecting the communities that live nearby.

Only days ago, the High Court reiterated this point as it issued an injunction restraining the government from felling trees for implementing its development projects in forests and forestlands for six months. Experts say that if trees are to be cut down for some reason, a new tree cover must soon be established in the affected region. This is especially important for Bangladesh where the total area of forestland has come down to a paltry 7-9 percent, whereas it is expected that a country should have at least 25 percent forest coverage. Like the forests in Manpura Island, many forests in Bangladesh are at risk of being robbed of trees and other elements essential to their existence—and that of us, by extension. The government must not allow this to continue. It must come down heavily on those indulging in the dangerous practice of felling trees for everyone's sake.