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21 March, 2019 00:00 00 AM / LAST MODIFIED: 20 March, 2019 11:54:44 PM

Why knowledge about forests is important for Bangladesh

Twenty-five per cent area of any country should be covered with trees and forest, for many reasons like production of wood, elimination of pollution, green natural environment, healthy air, etc.
Why knowledge about forests is important for Bangladesh

Every year international day of forest is observed in 21st March to aware mass people on forest ecosystem. This year the theme of forest day is “forests and education”. The economic value of carbon sequestration becomes increasingly recognized and qualified in the global marketplace. In order to estimate the valuation of ecosystem services and livelihood, it is necessary to identify a set of indicators that allow them to measure the contribution of these benefits in economic terms. Economic contributions are – food security, human health amelioration, sustainable livelihoods, disaster mitigation and climate change adaptation. Also, average protein take per person from food resources from forests can be used as indicators.

It reduces and mitigates natural disaster. Coastal forests are protecting life and properties from devastating cyclones, landslide, wind and surges; mitigating floods and droughts of the locality. In Bangladesh, hilly people depends on completely on natural flows of streams originated in forests for their water, values of such ecosystem is the construction for structures made for supplying water to city dwellers.

After all, healthy forest ecosystem clean the water we drink and produce the air we breathe, the foods we eat, the medicine that cure and protect us and the materials that form our shelter and clothing. But, the land use pattern of Bangladesh is changing very rapidly due to alterations in physiographic and socio-economic conditions, climatic change adaptation and population growth. Forests cover 31% of the worlds land surface. Estimated 25% area of any country should be covered with trees and forest, for many reasons like production of wood, elimination of pollution, green natural environment, healthy air and many others. Bangladesh has 15% of the landmass designated as forests.

Sustainable management of forest has been recognized in the earth summit at Rio and it has been stressed the need for enhancing the tree cover to 33% by 2012 to combat the global warming. Understanding the importance of forest conservation in adapting to climate change, the parties to the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC) has agreed to start the global reducing emissions from deforestation and forest degradation. Conference of parties (COP-10) raised concern about the biodiversity that is not achieved and a short new plan ‘strategic plan for Biodiversity 2011-20’ has come to be achieved by 2020.  

We the Bangladeshis have been experiencing some of the worst effects of climate change which are particularly responsible for most of the rural to urban migration, environmental deterioration, and food insecurity in our country. But the crises are also closely related to land encroachment in forest, alien species cultivation in forest, clash in Char-land, river encroachment, deforestation, trafficking of wildlife and violation of eco-industrial laws.

Loss of forest impedes evapotranspiration cycle, resulting in less rainfall and causing drier conditions over broad surrounding areas, sometimes leading to draught, increased flooding and erosion of sediment into rivers, disrupting river ecosystems. All forests contain large amounts of carbon. When they are destroyed, the burning or decomposition of forest matter releases this carbon into the atmosphere in the form of carbon dioxide. Carbon dioxide is a green house gas, absorbing solar heat within the atmosphere.   

In order to safeguard the remaining forests and increasing forest cover in Bangladesh the national forest policy, 1994 evidently envisages three outstanding courses of action: firstly, afforestation of marginal land all over the country involving the NGOs and participation of local people; secondly, all state owned forests of natural origin and the plantations of the hill and sal forest will be used for producing forest resources, conserving soil and water resources and maintaining the biodiversity; thirdly, because of the scarcity of forest land, state-owned reserved forest cannot be used for non-forestry purposes without the permission of the head of the government.

Wildlife effectively encompasses all forms of life, whether plant or animal which are found wild in nature and also include marine, freshwater and coastal ecosystems. Wildlife conservation is the endeavour to protect the endangered animal and plant species, along with their natural habitat which has been advocated through the years by many government and NGOs worldwide. World Wildlife Day is observed to make aware mass people on wildlife biodiversity and their security for sustainable development.

Different animal body parts, ranging from tiger skins and bones to tusks of African elephants, remains in the seizure list in the last five years globally. Recovery of tiger skins from areas close to the Sunderbans has also been reported in the recent past. In 2012, RAB rescued three tiger cubs from a poacher’s residence in the capital. Bangladesh, Nepal and Bhutan in 2012 launched a project named Strengthening Regional Cooperation for Wildlife Protection (SRCWP) to conserve wildlife and tackle poaching.

A growing number of seizure of wild animals and birds over the last five years shows that poachers and smugglers are using Bangladesh as a route for wildlife trafficking. The Department of Forest (DoF) and law enforcement agencies recovered 21,506 live wild birds and animals, including tiger and bear cubs, during the period.

A variety of animal body parts -- from tiger skins and bones to tusks of African elephants -- are also on the seizure list. According to wildlife officials, traffickers are active in smuggling out tiger skins and bones through Bangladesh, as those have huge demands on the global market, especially in China. Some of the seized wild animals and birds were meant for local trade, while the others were for trafficking to different countries, mainly in Southeast Asia. Wildlife traffickers are illegally bringing wild birds and animals mainly from India to smuggle those out via Shahjalal International Airport in the capital. Smugglers prefer Shahjalal airport because of lax monitoring, and the fact that they can bribe a section of corrupt officials to allow them to run the illegal trade. In general, wildlife trafficking poses serious threats to the survival of endangered animals in the Sunderbans. In the last five years, the DoF and law enforcers recovered three tiger cubs, 12 tiger skins, and teeth and bones.

China is the destination of tiger bones since Chinese people use those to make medicine.”Almost two-thirds of the 21,506 wild birds and animals seized since 2010 are turtles and tortoises. Law enforcers seized 12 illegal consignments of turtles at the airport and 20 more at different points of Bangladesh-India border. Through Interpol estimation, illegal wildlife trade worldwide now accounts for around $10-20 billion a year. According to several Malaysian online pet shops, a tortoise is sold from Tk 5,000 (280 RM) to Tk 13,500 (750 RM), while a pair could cost up to Tk 70,000 (3,888 RM).

The initiatives to curb illegal wildlife trade in Bangladesh remains blunted as the records still show high figures of wild animals and bird being seized by law enforcement agencies over the last five years. A total of 37,039 wild animals and birds were seized and rescued by the law enforcement agencies from June 2012 to November 2016, according to the Wildlife Crime Control Unit (WCCU). Of the total seizure, highest 19,359 were reptiles while 16,979 birds. A total of 374 wildlife offenses were recorded in those five years and only 566 offenders, mostly small traffickers, were taken in custody.

Due to the current demand of the wildlife resources and the impact of human activities on forest change, monitoring of the forest resources is essential in providing data for making policy decisions and generating management plans to enhance sustainable development; biodiversity and wildlife based campaign is urgent to uphold the critical issues of wildlife security.  To conclude – government organizations, environment planners, environmental scientists, environmentalists, political leaders, NGOs have to toil together for wildlife and forest security. We have to spread the education of forests among children’s, teachers, grass-root propels, indigenous peoples to save our forest ecology.

The writer is an Environmental Analyst & Associate Member of Bangladesh Economic Association




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Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman

Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

Editor : M. Shamsur Rahman
Published by the Editor on behalf of Independent Publications Limited at Media Printers, 446/H, Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1215.
Editorial, News & Commercial Offices : Beximco Media Complex, 149-150 Tejgaon I/A, Dhaka-1208, Bangladesh. GPO Box No. 934, Dhaka-1000.

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