Once there was a time when most of our country was covered with forest. The chroniclers of the day or even people would believe that woodlands were too vast to be depleted. But today, a limitless supply of trees has shrunk to an alarming level, threatening the country’s economy as well as the ecological balance. In Our country, forests provide us with very important natural resources like Wood, bamboo, thatching materials etc.
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The Importance of Forest
The importance of forest for a nation and its people are manifold. It is closely related to socio-economic and ecological aspects of a nation.
First, the forest is a vital source for maintaining the ecological balance. It supports biological diversity by providing habitat for plants and wildlife.
Second, the forest forms an integral component of the biosphere, essential for the stability of global climate and management of water and land.
Third, forests are the habitat for a large portion of the flora and fauna and forests shelter countless species, including organisms that are useful in pollinating crops and controlling disease-carrying pests.
Fourth, forests are oxygen provider and give the countrymen shade and shelter.
Fifthly, forests are necessary for protecting the country from desertification. Besides, forests protect the land from erosion, especially from river erosion.
Sixth, a mentionable portion of people in our country, especially in Sundarban and CHT areas, largely depends on the forest for their livelihood. Thus, loss of forests not only disrupts ecological balance but also hampers the very efforts of economic and social developments.
The present state of forest in Bangladesh
According to international standard, any country needs at least 25 percent forest cover for ecological balance. In the year 1948, the forest areas in the country were 24 percent. Now, only 15 percent remains. Even only 5 percent area of the country is covered with natural forests. So, we can have a glimpse about the present position of forest in Bangladesh in the following lines:
According to forestry Master plan and surveys by multi-lateral donor agencies, a total of 7, 69,000 hectors or 6 percent of the country’s land mass have actual tree cover. However, according to Department of the forest, the country has some 1.52 million hectares of forest area.
Types of forest in Bangladesh
In Bangladesh, forests are located mainly in the hilly northeast and southeast and coastal southwest areas of greater Sylhet, Chittagong Hill Tracts, and Khulna.
According to location, nature, and type of management, the forest of Bangladesh can be grouped into four categories: 1. Mangrove forests 2. Hill forest 3. Plain land forest 4. Village forests.
Most of the state forest is concentrated in Southwest and Southeast of the country. Forests in the Chittagong Hill Tracts cover 47 per cent and the Sundarbans and Patuakhali mangrove forests account for another 45 percent.
The northwestern region including Dinajpur, Bogra, Rajshahi and Rangpur has less than one percent and western districts like Jessore and Kushtia have slightly more than one percent of state forest land; and half of Bangladesh has no public forest at all.
However, the large-scale plantation has been established on the newly accreted char land in the coastal areas.
Consequences of deforestation: The consequences of deforestation are manifold such as
- The forest provides a diversified variety of animal and plant species. Depletion of forests causes the extinction of many species. Due to rapid depletion of the forests in Bangladesh, many animals and species have already been extinct and much more are endangered.
- Salinity intrusion to the Sunderbans is a great threat to it.
- Forests provide medical plants, honey, fuelwood and timber. So, many poor people depend on forests for their livelihood. As a result of deforestation, their livelihood falls into dangers.
- The forests maintain the ecological balance of a country and they contribute to her natural lucidity. Thus, deforestation may hamper the ecological balance and consequently make the nation vulnerable to climate change.
- The forests like Sunderbans and other mangrove forest act as a natural shield against cyclones and storms. Besides, forests save the land from desertification. So, deforestation may result in worst natural calamities and destruction of the country’s biological system.
- Deforestation sharpens the problem of river erosion, salinity, and sterility of lands.
Against the backdrop of such a worse situation, the govt. of Bangladesh has taken some initiatives. Such as the govt. in cooperation with Asian Development Bank and UNDP has already prepared a long-term program to develop the country’s forest resources. This plan has identified the problems and prospects of this vital sector with some suggestions for further development.
Creating new forests on 70,238 acres during the last few years has increased the forest areas of the country. The new forest areas included industrial forest, gardens, mangrove forest, woodlot forest gardens, agricultural forest garden, bamboo cane garden and unclassified forest gardens.
Besides, the forest areas have been increased by creating forest gardens on 707.09 km. along the roads and highways, railways, embankments and link roads and through sales and distribution of over two crores saplings. One crore 49 lakhs saplings had been raised during the 1998-99 fiscal year for sales and distribution.
The present amount of forests in Bangladesh is not adequate for maintaining ecological balance and ensuring sustainable development of the nation. Even the government initiatives for the preservation of forests are also not more effective. So, it is the right time to be concerned about the future of our forest resources as well as our ecological system and development.
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