Tackling river erosion with trees
To tackle erosion, the Forest Department has planted 29,000 trees on a stretch of Chattogram's Halda riverbank -- which had been grabbed by locals -- bringing a welcome change for the region's biodiversity.
Under the "social forestry" project, 19 species of trees -- including gamhar, arjun, olive and neem -- are now spreading their branches on the 29-kilometre stretch.
The project started in 2021 and will end in 2033.
River researchers said there are several ways, including planting trees, to help prevent riverbank erosion.
Monzurul Kibria, a prominent river researcher and professor of Chittagong University's zoology department, told The Daily Star, "Plant and tree roots hold the soil in position and prevent it from being washed away," he said.
During a visit to Chipatali area of the riverbank recently, this correspondent saw locals nurturing the saplings. Some beneficiaries were seen guarding the forest.
Besides, the department listed 145 destitute families in the area as beneficiaries under the project. These families will get 45 percent dividends from the sale of trees, after the project ends.
Ahmed Hossain, a beneficiary of the forest, told this newspaper, "At one point, local encroachers grabbed the riverbank and set up different kinds of illegal establishments. But now, the situation has totally changed. It's now turning into a green haven, full of different species of trees."
"We will get money as beneficiaries after the trees are cut down, which will bring us prosperity," he said.
"The project not only maintains ecological balance in our area but also brings happiness to poor families," said Nurul Ahsan, chairperson of Chipatali Union Parishad.
Fazlul Kader Chowdhury, forest ranger of Hathazari Forest Range, told The Daily Star that the riverbank had been grabbed by locals, but the Forest Department gradually recovered the land and planted trees.
Mozammel Haque Shah Chowdhury, divisional forest officer of Chattogram North Forest Department, said, "The trees slow the flow of water, and this cuts back on the rate of erosion."
According to Halda research laboratory, Halda is one of the most important rivers in Bangladesh for the fishing industry. It once had an abundant supply of eggs of freshwater fishes, such as carp, rui and katla, and its condition is suitable for brooding.
The 81-km Halda flows from Chattogram Hill Tracts, through Raozan, Hathazari and Fatikchhari in Chattogram, and finally connects to Karnaphuli river.