POST TIME: 10 September, 2018 00:00 00 AM
Strategic approach needed to save hills

Strategic approach needed to save hills

One facet of ecological devastation which often eludes our immediate attention is the reckless act of hill cutting. Since most hills are not in the major cities, their destruction often remains unnoticed. However, decimation of hills has already manifested in grave human tragedy when monsoon triggered hill slides killed people living on the slopes in Chittagong. Specialists recently called for mass afforestation throughout the country supported by a practical hill management plan.

In addition to the loss of lives in Chittagong, the cutting of hills results in serious ecological imbalance triggering mud slides, decimation of trees and deforestation. Many of the hilly areas of Bangladesh are covered by dense forests, which not only provides essential environmental diversity but also houses wild species of different kinds. In the last two decades, countless hills have been ravaged for construction or for wood to be used either as fuel or for other purposes. Consequently, many indigenous wildlife species, including leopard and fish cats, have become almost extinct.

Talking about hill protection is easier said than done because, reportedly, many of forest and hill areas are occupied by people blessed by local political bosses. The link between environmental degradation and politics is an old one; unless the authority takes a non-compromising stance about preserving nature, plans or strategies will only remain stuck within large folders. The Department of Environment, DoE, has made 13 recommendations for preservation of forest and hill areas, sending them to all district administrations.

These can only be implemented when occupation of land, forest and hills using political names are stopped with a firm hand. For this, the directive has to come from the highest authority of the country. In recent times, there have been several reports of Rohingyas living in Cox’s Bazaar cutting down a large number of trees for firewood. Already, several experts have expressed concern over the pace in which the trees are being felled, suggesting alternative fuel.

Being practical, cutting of trees near Rohingya camps may be controlled but not stopped because round the clock monitoring may not be feasible. An alternative can be to supply kerosene or wood from trees which have little or no value in sustaining ecological balance. To save hills from being cut down, the government may think of asking private companies involved in tourism to lease hills to convert them into resorts plus animal sanctuaries.

Such strategic approach can save hills plus their species while expanding nature based recreational spots with the enticing prospect of profit and employment generation.