Research Paper on Denuding the Bangladeshi Forests Kashef Ul Hoda; ID# 061 662 030 English 105, Section 5 Ms. Maleka Sarwar April 17th, 2010 Abstract…………………………………….. ………………………………………………….. Bangladesh is now on the verge of loosing its much loved symbol of greenery which made our country known as the lush green landscape – “Sobuj Bangladesh”. We are to loose this “green blessing” due to massive and uncontrolled deforestation, now at its peak. This research was conducted by interviewing two experts in the field of biodiversity and forestry, while also taking a survey with 26 respondents from diverse backgrounds.
The results display a grave situation of our forests, simply vanishing at a remarkably quick rate. Although our media have been successful to spread the message of our deforestation problem, but the extent of the problem deserves a lot more attention (in terms of documentaries and shows dedicated to this problem). The research shows that this unfortunate crisis is as a result of constant government negligence and an increasing rise of the countries population. Introduction…………………………………………………………………………………….. Bangladesh is located in a humid tropical region and is very fertile for plants and forests.
As a country we have always depended on our trees that provide shelter against our most common natural hazards. The forests of Bangladesh have been under planned management for over a hundred years. Since the independence of Bangladesh in 1971, we have been facing tough challenges due to unplanned industrialization, corruption and other demographic pressures. Trees and wild-growths are known to act as a natural shield from hurricanes and tornadoes as well as holding landslides away, and thus preventing great damage to properties and life.
Deforestation of our foothills, mangrove forests, tree covered areas for reasons like fuel wood, industrialization, commercial purposes (e. g. furniture needs) contribute to periodic floods that cause widespread misery to people living in the flood plains of the Ganges-Brahmaputra system, which covers about 75 percent of the country. Such reckless cutting down of trees bares us against cyclones and landslides consistently. Destruction of forests has adversely affected our environment as trees help remove carbon from the atmosphere in return of oxygen – without trees we are contributing to Global Warming.
Our various habitats are seriously affected, pushing our endemic (existing in no other country) and other rare species of wildlife (including birds) towards being endangered or getting extinct! Media is actively engaged in reporting the loss of our precious forests, thus creating mass awareness among the ordinary citizens who are increasingly coming forward expressing their great concern for the fate of our country without these forests. This research paper tries to investigate the current attitude of the general masses of Bangladesh towards the cutting down of our forests.
As deforestation in Bangladesh is uncontrolled and very little of our forests is left, it becomes more important now to be aware of the truth. This paper also looks into the confidence level of people and experts towards the government over this issue, and the reasons that shaped such opinion/s. Bangladesh needs to save and sustain its forests not only for its survival and security from natural disasters, but also for the sake of its future generations who have a right to see a “Shobuj Bangladesh” (Green Bangladesh) just like their ancestors have always done. Background ………………………………………………………………………………… .. Once Bangladesh was known to be a land famous for its lush green landscape. However, today it can be seen that we have lost most of our greenery as a result of massive and uncontrolled deforestation, an unfortunate situation that started to take shape during the last days of the British Raj, through the Pakistan Era and now at its peak in post-liberation Bangladesh. According to the journal on deforestation my Rahman and Guogang, in the nearest past, which is prior to the independence of Bangladesh, we had 16% forests available with a deforestation rate of 0. 8%, but since independence it kept on increasing. Now less than 6% of forests remain in Bangladesh with an annual deforestation rate touching a startling 3. 3%. There are mainly three types of forests existing in Bangladesh –the evergreen and semi-evergreen rainforests in the eastern region and at the Chittagong Hill Tracts region, the moist and dry deciduous forests, known as “sal” forests, situated in the central plains and the northeast region, and the tidal mangrove forests along the coast— and these are all under grave threat, with little is being done to save them..
Traditionally “sal” forests used to cover vast areas in the center and east of Bangladesh. In addition to the “sal” trees (Shorea robusta) which constitute 70 to 75% of the forest composition, this type of forest includes several valuable tree and herbaceous species like the sungrass. Biological diversity in the “sal” forests is unique. However, now due to consistent deforestation, the moist deciduous Sal forest (Shorea robusta) of Madhupur, considered to be the most threatened ecosystem in Bangladesh is on the verge of vanishing.
In the south of Bangladesh there is the famous Sundarban, the largest mangrove in the world is located. It is fed by a hydrological network of fresh water belonging to the Ganges watershed, and the salty water of the Gulf of Bengal. It comprises an area of more than 10,300 square kilometers with a complex and rich habitat where many species of fauna and flora coexist: mammals, several hundred species of birds –some of them migratory– as well as crocodiles, other reptiles, amphibians and invertebrates. In addition, it is one of the last reserves of the royal bengal tiger.
According to WRM’s bulletin, large-scale deforestation for human settlement in Sundarbans has seriously affected the entire ecosystem and the surrounding environment. The coastline and foreshores on both sides of tidal rivers are under serious threat of erosion and the river embankments are becoming vulnerable in course of time. This has not only affected the land structures and disturbed the siltation process of this deltaic region but also adversely affected the natural habitat of flora & fauna. The region being famous as a ‘nursery’ of the marine fauna is under serious threat due to degeneration of mangroves in the inter tidal zones.
The mangrove ecosystem has suffered from loss of habitat and contamination. Aquaculture, logging of mangrove forest for timber and fuel wood has caused the decrease in the forest cover area. They have suffered the repercussion of deforestation for the purpose of artificial pond construction for aquaculture of shrimp farming. A large number of populations are dependent on forest for fishing, honey collection, woodcutting, etc. Most of the forestland has been denuded, degraded, and occupied by industrialists (often accused of being politically backed) or displaced people.
In Bangladesh successive governments since Liberation have done little to take worthwhile measures to slow down the rate of destruction and reverse the process through conservation. Hypothesis………………………………………………………………………………….. ….. Since our independence more than half of our forest area has been destroyed through cutting down trees and burning bushes. The forests are being destroyed by wood traders, industrialists, developers, farmers and also criminals who steal/loot our forests even in the restricted zones.
While the growing population consistently have a negative impact on our forests due to housing, the other motives of these people range from making money by selling or smuggling the trees for the furnishing and other related industry, to ordinary farming purposes. The destruction of our forests affects the natural habitat through destruction of numerous precious ecosystems. Due to deforestation, the threat of flood increases and the natural resistance that forests provide from storms and tornadoes are massively undermined. The atmosphere is also affected adversely as trees are the source of oxygen.
The media is building awareness among the common people of Bangladesh, and we are increasingly coming forward in support of preserving the forest. The government is not doing enough in order to save the precious forests of Bangladesh. Research Methodology……………………………. …………………………………………… As my primary source, I depended on a survey to find out the awareness level and attitude of the general people regarding the growing threat to our forests and how they perceive the role of our government in this situation. I would also interview a reputed scholar studying our environmental situation.
To find out the expert opinions regarding activities of our government and various organizations, I interviewed a leading researcher on forests and head of the Environmental Science Department of North South University, I also interviewed another faculty from North South University who had been conducting surveys and researches on the effect of deforestation over the various habitats of Bangladesh. As for my secondary source, I browsed through the internet and went through websites, articles, journals, blogs and forums with the help of Google Search Engines.
My research paper wants to investigate the current situation of deforestation in Bangladesh, and how well aware the general masses are about this. This paper would also try to look into the efforts carried out by the government to save our forests, and the public opinion about these efforts. I follow the general format of a research paper with the main sections like Introduction, Background, Data Presentation and Analysis, and Summary of the Findings. The organization of this paper will be directed by research questions that would be answered in the aforementioned main sections.
Survery Questionnaire……………………………. …………………………………………… The survey was conducted through a span of one week over 26 randomly selected people, of whom 17 were male and 9 female [see pie chart of demographics in the appendix). The respondents were mainly from urban environments, although 3 of the respondents were from sub-urban and 2 from rural environment. The survey mainly focused in the awareness of the respondents and the sources that supplied them the information about deforestation in Bangladesh.
It also tried to investigate their interest towards this issue, their perception on its gravity and effects on their lives. It also tried to figure out the confidence level of people over the sincerity of the government to conserve the Bangladeshi forests. From the graph in Fig 2 (appendix), it can be seen that all the respondents from both sexes have confirmed that they are aware (to varying degrees) of the deforestation problem currently plaguing Bangladesh. This awareness was present among people of all ages, whether living in urban, sub-urban or rural environments.
This clearly shows that the wrath of deforestation is so visible and harmful that it has ended up successfully touching everyone’s life, whether the person is a teen or an adult, a city-dweller or a villager. Such is the extent and history of this reckless situation that now even the person who probably never went to the rural plain can easily feel and see his/her own life being effected adversely due to the cutting down of trees. Along with the above data, I felt the need to know the most popular source that made them aware of the massive deforestation going on in Bangladesh. Below is a graph which displays my findings: |Male |Female |Total | |News Paper |8 |3 |11 | |Television |6 |6 |12 | |Radio |0 |0 |0 | |Magazines |2 |0 |2 | |Other |1 |0 |1 | | | | |26 | [pic] Here from the above information it can be deduced that most of the respondents got their information from the television, however the ratio of males is higher for News Paper (46%) whereas mainly the female respondents claim to have received their information about the rampant deforestation in Bangladesh through Television. Other sources include Magazines and the Internet which delivered information to 3 of my respondents. • Which kinds of people are responsible for the destruction of our forests? |Male |Female |Total | |Politically backed people |9 |4 |13 | |Smugglers |2 |2 |4 | |Industrialists |3 |3 |6 | |Farmers |3 |0 |3 | |Others |0 |0 |0 | | | | |26 | [pic] The above graphical display shows that among both genders and all age groups we have 50% saying that politically backed people are mainly responsible for the cutting of trees in Bangladesh while 15. 38% of my respondents say that the responsible people for deforestation are the smugglers and 23. 07% say that powerful industrialists are responsible. It is interesting that only 11. 53% of all the respondents think that farmers can be responsible for deforestation – and this “11. 53%” does not include a single female.
Thus by seeing the data gathered it can be said that a huge percentage of the respondents feel that politicians are indirectly involved in causing deforestation. In response to an open ended question about the reasons for their feeling of political people being involved in this crisis, it was evident that this concept of political involvement came through the feeling among people that deforestation could easily be controlled if the politicians really would want to control the cutting down of trees. Thus as deforestation is not being controlled, this negligence by the government is being decoded as an act out of self-interest and not public interest. • What kind of impact can the destruction of our forests have on our environment? |Male |Female |Total | |Flooding |0 |0 |0 | |Land erosion |0 |0 |0 | |Loss of habitat |1 |0 |1 | |All of the above |16 |9 |25 | |None of the above |0 |0 |0 | | | | |26 | [pic] From this graphical image regarding the perceived impact on the environment due to deforestation, the respondents have generally opted for the option “All of the above” (96. 15% of all the respondents). This option basically say that massive deforestation in Bangladesh will result in more flooding, land erosion and also cause severe loss of habitat. However, one respondent (3. 8% of all the respondents) opted for “loss of habitat” only. It can also be seen that none of my respondents have opted for the choice that said that deforestation is not going to have any adverse effect on the environment of our lives.
Thus, from the above findings it can be said that the adverse effect that deforestation can have on our lives is known by people of all ages (18 to 55+). Such knowledge is not just limited to the urban public, but to those living in the sub-urban and rural areas as well. Summary of findings……………………………. ……………………………………………… Through the survey report and interviews it was clear that the impact of deforestation not only known but also a cause of worry among people from all backgrounds, regardless the extent of information they have about this situation. The survey questionnaire shows that people are concerned and look for a solution. No one wants a barren Bangladesh without its trees and animals.
In this modern world, almost no one is unaware on the importance of trees for our atmosphere and overall environment. The survey also expresses satisfaction over the media’s response over the issue in providing people with necessary information to know about the ongoing crisis of deforestation. However, the experts interviewed believe that the media is not doing enough. One of my interviewee, Dr. Mohammad Ali (a leading researcher over the Bangladeshi forests and biodiversity) expressed his dissatisfaction over the role of the media and its selective reporting. He pointed out the fact that there are no TV programs or documentaries in any or the Bangla Channels solely dedicated to the forests of Bangladesh. Another interviewee, Dr. Sirajul Islam (Asst.
Prof of DESM in NSU) expressed a similar reaction towards the role of media, while adding his concern over the government steps to save the forests in an unplanned way with a commercial approach which focuses on planting trees which are commercially benefiting and not necessarily benefiting the ecosystem or the atmosphere. . Although the respondents to the questionnaire and those interviewed had distinct opinions regarding the role of the media, still they both agreed that the growing population crisis has a huge role causing deforestation, while approach of the government remains very unimpressive, and this fuels a growing suspicion about some of them being involved in deforestation for personal benefit as well.
Through articles and journals, it could be seen that the rate of deforestation is too high, and many writers express their gravest concerns. Although the information of large foreign AID (also confirmed by my interviewees) is being sent to Bangladesh through various NGOs and international organizations are there, but it is also a known fact that these funds are not utilized properly. However, there are some international organizations such as DANIDA and DFID who are involved to protect the forests, but often fail to do much due to the lack of adequate support from the government and widespread corruption. Throughout my research, most of my hypothesis has been proven right.
However, the theory of villagers causing deforestation due to gathering of fuel wood did not prove to be the major factor and the main cause shifting more heavily towards the growing population crisis (settlement) and government mismanagement. Also, the scale of deforestation predicted by me was not accurate either. Bangladesh already lost more than 50% of its pre-independence forests in 1990, and now whatever remains are only patches of forests, with the largest surviving forest being the Sunderbans. Bangladesh seems to be on a point where it is standing on the edge, after which it will cross the point of having a recovery. It can be said that the extent of destruction that I could imagine had been surpassed long ago already, and now the crisis sits at its peak. Suggestions………………………………………. ………………………………………………
The suggestions to this massive problem starts from the word ‘now or never! ” There can be dredging of canals and rivers passing by and through the forest and formation of a watchdog body comprising experienced forest officials, environmentalists, researchers, NGOs and public representatives with a view to saving the vanishing forests of Bangladesh. If the government takes massive steps (such as modernizing our forest departments, employing more forest rangers, penalizing those who cut forest trees by declaring them a criminal act, etc) to save our remaining forests now, there is a chance that we can have a green Bangladesh for our future as well.
Another very important way can be the creation of new laws and legislations to protect the forests. We can write our legislators and let them know where you stand on the issues, so that forest and the environment also comes into the focus of politicians as an issue which needs to be addressed to get the mandate of the people. … Conclusion………………………………. ……………………………………………. …… …… The present scenario in Bangladesh could very well have been avoided if adequate steps could have been taken in the 1990’s when the extent of deforestation entered the critical phase. However, due to inadequate infrastructure and a growing population, the task to protect our forests are becoming tougher over time.
If the government does not plan to take significant steps towards nature and environment oriented forestry with the help of notable researchers and experts in the national as well as the international arena, then it is not hard to think of a Bangladesh with its lush green landscape erased forever. .. References………………………………………………………….. ……………………. …….. Amin, M. N. (2002, October). Biodiversity and Floristic Composition of Sundarbans in Bangladesh. Environews, 8(4). Retrieved April 4, 2010, from http://isebindia. com /01_04/02-10-1. html Hance, J. (2010, March 29). Last chance to save Bangladeshi forest: 90 percent of the Sal ecosystem is gone. Retrieved April 4, 2010, from http://news. mongabay. com/2010/0328 -hance_sal_forest. html Mohammad, M. (2002). A Review of Forest Policy Trends in Bangladesh. Policy Trend Report, 114-121. Retrieved April 4, 2010, from http://enviroscope. iges. or. p/modules/envirolib /upload/371/attach/08_Bangladesh. pdf Rahman, M. M. , Mohammad, M. R. , Guogang, Z. , Islam, K. S. (2010). A review of the present threats to tropical moist deciduous Sal (Shorea robusta) forest ecosystem of central Bangladesh. Tropical Conservation Science, 3(1), 90-102. Retrieved April 4, 2010, from http://www. tropicalconservationscience. org The vanishing forest biodiversity in Bangladesh. (2001, March), WRM’s bulletin. Retrived April 16, 2010, from http://www. wrm. org. uy/bulletin/44/Bangladesh. html Vanishing Madhupur Forest. (2006, January 19). New Age Editorial. Retrieved April 4, 2010, from http://www. newagebd. com/2006/jan/19/edit. html. Appendix Gender | | |Male |17 | |Female |9 | [pic] Fig 1 • Do you know that there is deforestation going on in Bangladesh? | |Male |Female |Total | | |Yes |17 |9 |26 | | |No |0 |0 |0 | | | | | |26 | | [pic] Fig 2