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    Bangladesh: 13 Per Cent Decrease in Forest Cover over Two Decades

    CountriesBangladeshBangladesh: 13 Per Cent Decrease in Forest Cover over...
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    Bangladesh: 13 Per Cent Decrease in Forest Cover over Two Decades

    According to the department of forest there were a total of 1.88 million hectares of forest land in 2020, of which 116,328 hectares were encroached upon.

    Bangladesh has lost approximately 246,000 hectares of forested area between 2001 and 2023, according to Global Forest Watch. This is a 13 per cent decrease compared to before, with the largest reduction occurring in 2017 at nearly 28,328 hectares.

    Research indicates that in 2010, Bangladesh had more than 2 million hectares of natural forest, accounting for 16 per cent of the total land area, which has been decreasing annually. Just in 2023 alone, the forest area decreased by about 17,806 hectares.

    If this vast area of forest had not been destroyed, at least 75 megatonnes of CO2 emissions could have been prevented. 

    According to Forest Watch’s research, the most significant decrease in forested area between 2001 and 2023 occurred in Chattogram, with a loss of nearly 231,000 hectares, accounting for 94 percent of the total reduction; followed by Sylhet with 8,366 hectares, 5,657 hectares in Rangpur, 323 hectares in Rajshahi, 203 hectares in Khulna, and about 99 hectares in Barishal.

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    Bangladesh ranks third among the countries experiencing forest loss. The top country is Suriname in South America, with a loss of about 251,893 hectares, followed by Malawi in Africa, which lost 246,895 hectares of forest land.

    Forest Watch issued warnings that 22,445 places in Bangladesh could see tree felling, with concerns that about 255 hectares of forested areas could be cleared. Specifically, from Apr 10 to Apr 17, warnings were issued for 4,595 locations, potentially leading to the clearance of 53 hectares of forest.

    The research findings were released and warnings issued by Global Forest Watch with the support of the University of Maryland, analysing satellite images.

    Losses outweigh gains

    According to the department of forest, the government agency responsible for the care of forests and forest lands, there were a total of 1.88 million hectares of forest land in 2020, of which 116,328 hectares were encroached upon.

    Cox’s Bazar district has seen the highest amount of forest encroachment, with over 24,00 hectares of forest land illegally occupied.

    Md Amir Hosain Chowdhury, the chief conservator of forests, said: “Every year we are losing about 10,000 hectares of forest, though there is also some increase in new areas. However, if we consider carbon, our losses outweigh our gains, meaning there is a net loss.

    The loss is more significant in the Chattogram Hill Tracts and the sal forests around Gazipur due to human-induced reasons. 

    “However, if you look at the Sundarbans, the forest there hasn’t decreased much; the small decrease that has occurred is due to erosion or other natural causes. We aim to bring this loss-gain to a neutral position by 2030.”

    When asked about measures against those illegally occupying forest lands, he said: “We created a list of encroachments in 2020. Since then, 10,522 hectares of forest land have been recovered, and reforestation has been conducted in those areas. This process is ongoing.”

    Why the decline?

    Unplanned urbanisation is responsible for the decrease in forested areas or forest lands, as are water, air, and soil pollution, and natural factors like river erosion. 

    The rate of tree planting does not match the rate of loss, which is a major reason for the decrease in forested areas. 

    Moreover, even when trees are planted, many die due to lack of proper care.

    Professor Tuhin Wadud from Begum Rokeya University, an environmental and river organiser, says: “Everything from unplanned building construction to the expansion of cities is contributing to deforestation. However, we still have a significant amount of vacant land where numerous trees can be planted.

    “Simply organising tree planting programmes is not enough. We plant trees but need to follow a ‘plant and save’ approach, meaning not just planting but also caring for them. “Another issue is river erosion. Each year, a significant number of trees are lost due to riverbank erosion, so we must also protect our rivers.”

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