Protected forest trees have not been spared either, with 28 forest trees reduced in two decades

Today is Biodiversity Day. The country is home to 53 protected forests. Research has been done on 28 These forests lost 14,767 hectares of trees in two decades.

At Rangamati’s Pablakhali Wildlife Sanctuary, Bidhur Chakma (47) saw not even half of the plants she saw as a child. Day by day, the forest has seen an increase in settlements and a reduction in tree cutti. The forest is classified as a ‘protected category’. Vidhu Chakma’s house is located in the village of South Sarwatali, which is adjacent to the forest. He stated on Tuesday that he had taken numerous initiatives to safeguard the forest. However, the cutting of trees did not stop.

Satellite images of 28 of the country’s 53 protected forests, including the Pablakhali Wildlife Sanctuary, revealed a decline in trees in every forest over the past two decades. In this context, we will be celebrating International Biodiversity Day on Wednesday (May 22). This year, the theme of the day is “Be part of the biodiversity plan.”

Assistant Professor Md. Farhadur Rahman of the ‘Remote Sensing and GIS Department’ at Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman Agricultural University conducted research on the country’s 28 protected forests. 14 National Parks and 14 Wildlife Sanctuaries have come under the scope of the study. Among the national parks are Altadighi, Baroiyadhala, Bhawal, Birganj, Himchhari, Kadigarh, Kaptai, Khadimnagar, Lauachhara, Madhupur, Medhakachhia, Nawabganj, Satchari, and Singra. The wildlife sanctuaries include Char Kukrimukri, Chunti, Dudhpukuria-Dhopachari, Faisyakhali, Hazarikhil, Pablakhali, Remakalenga, Sangu, Sonarchar, Sundarbans East, Sundarbans South, Sundarbans West, Tengragiri, and Teknaf.

The study used Google images taken at different times to monitor the land conditions of three types of protected forests—shal, hill and mangrove. The Landsat satellite provided the images. Researchers have used the Continuous Change Detection and Classification (CCDC) method to monitor forest changes. Researcher Md. Farhadur Rahman said, this research is to see what the condition of forest cover is in the country.

What is the forest’s condition?

Trees have decreased in all the forests under study. The forests of the Chittagong Hill Tracts have lost more trees. Among them, the damage to Rangamati’s publakhali is greater. In 20 years, 8 thousand 318 hectares of forest have become green.
The Sangu Forest of Chittagong Hill Tracts is next in line. There, 1,100 hectares of forest trees were destroyed. Deforestation has destroyed 9 and a half hectares of Chunti forest and nearly 900 hectares of Kaptai forest.

Madhupur in Tangail had the highest number of trees destroyed in the Shalban region, at 177 hectares. Out of the three protected areas of the Sundarbans, the Sundarbans East Protected Area has the highest area of 129 hectares of trees destroyed.

The Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests, Govinda Roy, is unwilling to fully accept the issue of tree felling in protected forests. He is now the project director for the World Bank forest co-management project ‘Sufal’. According to him, the country’s green area has increased. However, we cannot definitively say that the forest has lost its greenery.
However, research by Farhadur Rahman shows that 28 forests have lost 14,767 hectares of trees. The Forest Act prohibits cutting and planting trees in protected forests.

The forest does not recover.

Of the 28 protected forests where tree destruction was observed, 25 had introduced co-management strategies to sustain the forest at various times. Co-management entails the active participation of local communities in the forest conservation process. People participate in forest management with the intention of ceasing forest destruction.
The US development agency USAID launched the Nisarga project in five of the country’s protected forests in 2003. From 2003 to 2018, we formed 28 Co-Management Committees in 22 protected areas.

The Nisarga project starts in Chunti Sanctuary, one of the five forests. Sanjida Rahman, a resident of the Chunti area, was an eighth grade student in 1976. The forest that he saw was so thick that even during the day, one had to turn on a light to enter. Sanjida reported that the number of plants has now decreased to half. Trees have decreased due to illegal forest settlements, hill cutting, sand mining, and tree theft.

The forest department also admitted that co-management did not bring the expected success. In their article entitled ‘Successes achieved in co-management’, co-management activities have not yet played a role as expected due to financial constraints, the influence of local influencers and politicians, project dependency, and a weak institutional framework.

Since 2004, Professor Tanjimuddin Khan of Dhaka University’s Department of International Relations has been researching various projects in the Forest Department’s protected forests, including the Nisarga project. Professor Tanjimuddin Khan said, ‘I have seen big projects including Nisarg, IPAC, Crel, and Sufal. Instead of protecting biodiversity, people view forests as a means of generating income. Here, the issue of commercial gain has prevailed.

Tanjimuddin Khan asserted that these actions have facilitated communication between the dishonest forest department workers and the influential locals. That did not stop the forest from being destroyed; rather, the rate of destruction has increased.