Are we doing enough to maintain our terrestrial ecosystem?


Climate change and deforestation are causing rapid loss of arable land and land degradation worldwide. It has a devastating effect on the lives of marginalized communities. Droughts, desertification, floods and soil erosion threaten the existence of flora and fauna.

The protection of the ecosystem depends mainly on the existence of forests. It has two specific objectives: to increase the area covered by trees by 25% and the forest area by 18% respectively.

Bangladesh is currently in an ambiguous situation, on the one hand it has to protect the environment and on the other hand it has to maintain the current rate of economic growth, which will end up polluting the environment but will make Bangladesh a developed country. by 2041.

To plot environmental pollution against Bangladesh’s per capita income, some economists suggest an inverted ‘U’ shaped curve – which shows that before a substantial amount of per capita income is reached, pollution will continue to increase. ‘increase; because growth requires industrial development, a high rate of production – ultimately leading to harmful by-products, polluting the air, water and land.

However, prioritizing infrastructure growth before preserving the environment is not a way of sustainable development for us, as we have limited natural resources with huge population density. We believe it is possible to pursue economic growth without destroying the environment.

About 19 million people in Bangladesh depend on forests. About 70% of the population of Bangladesh still lives in rural areas and mainly depends on trees for firewood, livestock and fruits. But with the rapid increase in population and industrial infrastructure, forests are in great danger. As we need more land for agriculture, homes and industries, more forests are scattered.

And that’s not the only reason. In fact, the irresponsibility of civil servants, their inertia to promulgate or implement laws and regulations are also responsible. Deforestation is also evident in some of the reserved areas.

Widespread felling of trees is observed in Dhaka, Rajshahi, Rangpur and Dinajpur regions. Also, in the Chattogram Hill Tract area, deforestation is evident due to Jhum cultivation; and in the Hathazari forest area by loggers. Bangladesh currently has only about 12% of its land covered by forest, compared to 26% forest cover in Asia. This figure is also below the 18% forest cover target under SDG 15.

SDG 15 (life on land) specifically addresses this scenario by restoring and conserving the terrestrial ecosystem. More importantly, it aims to stop deforestation and protect natural biodiversity.

Considering these, the Government Forestry Department has launched various projects under the Social Forestry Program to plant trees, which will also help marginalized communities. One of the important projects is planting trees along the roads across the country, which these communities can benefit from.

There are also sufficient contributions from some national and international NGOs in such initiatives. Besides these projects, it is high time that strict new laws are enacted and implemented to curb any kind of deforestation. With effective management, the forest area should be declared protected by the government.

It’s not just the administration, the community can also play a role by taking the initiative to protect its share of the forest. For this, sensitization and awareness campaigns are necessary. People can be incentivized if they receive a monetary benefit, and voluntary organizations working on this issue should be incentivized both financially and by offering community and national recognition. In particular, the demand for wood is sufficient for the production of paper, furniture, construction and cooking. An alternative to cutting down forests must therefore be found. This could be the use of jute, plastic or the recycling of waste paper, and for cooking purposes, solar or biogas cookers in addition to electric or gas cookers could be used.

An alternative tree planting program can be adopted whose main objective would be the production of timber and, if economically possible, the importation of timber should be encouraged by providing import subsidies / tax breaks, instead of putting undue pressure on the existing trees of Bangladesh.

In areas close to the village or any habitat where marginalized communities live, it is best to plant trees that will benefit the community. Planting some medicinal plants could also be the best choice for its versatile benefits.

Additionally, forests have the power to restore and expand, so vacant space must be kept around the forest to allow it to regenerate. In urban areas, trees are needed to reduce air pollution and give citizens a sense of clean space. Planting trees in cities has a particular benefit besides supplying oxygen, which is sweat cooling; which helps reduce the temperature in the air.

The Forest Department has reported an increased practice of killing and smuggling wildlife amid the pandemic. And, throughout this period, the rapid smuggling of wild animals like tigers, pigeons, peacocks, swans, pangolins, gecko lizards and cockatoos to India has been observed. Thus, to protect the fauna of our forest apart from the conservation of our forests, a particular monitoring is essential.

According to the forestry master plan for 2017-2036, more than a third of the posts in the forest department are vacant, and the lack of adequate IT infrastructure and funds for routine activities such as business travel are straining the surveillance. In this context, a much more structured initiative is needed to increase the overall efficiency and resilience of the Bangladesh Forest Department.

Government and private initiatives are needed to protect our trees and plant more wherever land is available. When planting trees, we should focus on diversity by planting a variety of plants instead of monocultures. This will contribute significantly to building a sustainable ecosystem.

Dr Md Mahbubul Hakim is an Associate Professor in the Department of Economics, Shahjalal University of Science and Technology.

Sakib Mahmoud is an undergraduate student in economics at Shahjalal University of Science and Technology.

Disclaimer: The views and opinions expressed in this article are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the opinions and views of The Business Standard.


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