Forests are a very important source of natural resources like wood, bamboo, thatching material etc. It also has a great influence on the environment like climate, water availability, soil erosion, flood and nutrient turnover. It is also the last portion of the world’s fauna and flora. Wood which is the main forest produce has been used from the very early days of human civilization. Even though substitute has been found for most natural materials wood remains irreplaceable in most of its uses. Wood is the major cooking fuel for vast majority of the world’s population; it provides the raw material for pulp, paper and cellulose base industries and is still a major component in the building industry. Wood is playing as important a role in human lives today as it did in the ancient times. It is still vitally necessary in the lives of people, particularly in the developing countries. With the increase in the population of the world, the pressure on land increased very greatly. This together with the requirement of timber for an increasing world population has resulted in large scale destruction of forest. According to Porte (1989) 33 million acres of tropical forests are cleared every year.
The situation in Bangladesh is not any better than other developing countries. In fact because of its small land base and very large population, the situation here is more precarious than most other countries. The population of the country more than two and a half fold in the last four decades, while during the same period of time there has not been any addition to the existing forests except for the establishment of about 250,000 acres of plantation in the newly accreted coastal char land. Even though on record about 6.1 million acres of forest exists in Bangladesh, in reality, less than half of that can be considered as productive. This has been the result of over exploitation of trees resources for meeting the demand of population which is much larger than what our forest can support.
A portion of the forest has also been lost to jhuming and encroachment. This has resultant in diminished supply situation causing a steadily widening gap between demand and supply of wood.
Forests in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has 2.60 million ha of forest land which is about 17.62% of the land area of the country. Of the forest land, Forest Department manages 10.37% (1.53 million ha) while the rest of the area is managed by either deputy commissioners of three hill districts (unclassed state forests) or privately manage (rubber and tea garden and social forestry plantation) though forest land is about 18%. However, actual tree covered area is only 8.6% (hill forest 2.7%, littoral 3.3%, Sal forest 0.8% an village forest 1.8%). The forest area of Bangladesh is presented in table 1. Forest situation in Bangladesh
Bangladesh has lost over 50% of its forest resource over the period of about 25years. According to forests experts, we should have at least 25% of our total land area covered with trees, or forests to enjoy the benefit of nature. But a total of 769,000 hectares or 6% of the countries land mass have actual tree cover (from forestry master plan & surveys by multi-lateral donor agencies). At approximately 0.02 ha per person of forest, Bangladesh currently has one of the lowest per capita forest ratio in the world.
In Bangladesh, government owned forest area covers 2.19 million ha with the remaining 0.27 million ha being privately controlled homestead forests. Of the government owned forest land, 1.49 million ha are national forests under the control of the Department of Forest, with the rest being under control of local governments. Of the state owned forests, over 90% is concentrated in 12 districts in the Eastern and South-Western region of the country. However, due to over exploitation these forests have become seriously degraded.
Major Causes for...