Need to protect mangroves for coastal people

Prof Kamal Hossen in conversation with Star

Kamal Hossen is a recently retired professor at the Institute of Forestry and Environmental Science of Chattogram University. In a conversation with The Daily Star, he emphasised the importance of the conservation of mangrove forests.

DS: Why are mangrove forests important for the coastal people?

Prof Kamal: The mangrove was created in 1995 along the coastal belt beginning from the open coast in Barishal to Teknaf in Cox's Bazar in light of the evidence of the Sundarbans reducing the impact of cyclones. Experts at that time expected that by creating a green belt, the wind speed and tidal surges could be slowed down by 50 percent. There was some success in the coastal forestation at many parts of the coastal belt.

However, large parts of the mangrove forest in the Mirsarai region got lost due to the construction of the economic zone.

DS: How do you view the decision of the government to lease out mangrove forests for development projects?

Prof Kamal: In the entire sub-continent, we had the oldest mangrove forest known as Chakaria Sundarbans aged 10,000 years, even older than the Sundarbans. But we could not save it from encroachment. The purpose of creating the mangrove and conserving it has now become less important to the authorities.

DS: How important political goodwill is to protect our forests?

Prof Kamal: Political goodwill has to be at the heart of any plan to protect forests. If the prime minister declares that no one can destroy forests, no one will dare to do it. We have to protect mangroves for the sake of the coastal people.