Bangladesh from the time immemorial is well-known as evergreen landscape to the world and its abundance in natural resources also attracted numerous world famous travelers towards this dreamland. But, today those greeneries and natural resources remain simply just as a record in the pages of history. Now in Bangladesh only about 17 percent of land remain as forests and tree growing areas, including the rural groves, tea gardens, and others. The present forest coverage area is about 17 percent. The land stays 8 percent below the minimum standard 25 percent as set by the international experts for an individual country.
According to experts at least 25 percent i.e. the one fourth of total lands of any country is mandatory to ensure forest coverage to maintain ecological balance and environmental equilibrium of the country. Besides, to fulfil the demands of fuel wood and household and to protect the delicate landscape and fragile land masses from the river erosions, tidal surges, storms, floods, and to provide safe abode for the wildlife and etc, the necessity of forest coverage 25 percent is inevitable.
Taking all these issues of challenges and developments into consideration, the international experts on environment and forest have been giving due importance on the impact of forests in the existence of human life and bio-diversity. Accordingly, in the UN Conference on Environment and Development, which comes to be known as Earth Summit, held at Rio de Janeiro, Brazil in 1992, the Statement of Forest Principles for the sustainable management of forests was the first global consensus and reached fruitful decision on the issue of forests. Finally, the conventions were ratified by 172 member states of the UN.
Amongst all these countries, Bangladesh is one of them. In the Summit, two conventions- the convention on climate change and the convention on biological diversity, which are essential for human survival, were reflected. On the basis of the reflection, Agenda 21, a comprehensive plan for global action on environment and development with the Statement of Forest Principles was adopted, which defines the rights and responsibilities of every member state of the UN.
Since Bangladesh inherits a long history of greeneries and since Bangladesh is a beginning member of the Earth Summit, the time has come to appraise the successes of Bangladesh in forestation and sustainable management of forest. Realizing this, now we are focusing on forest sector, especially on the roles and activities of the Forest Department of Bangladesh, through publishing exclusive interview of CCF and a good number of articles of senior officers and experts of the department. These valuable stories have reflected the activities, problems, potentials, achievements and future plans of both the sector and the department, suggesting necessary measures for further actions of development.
We, however, think in consideration of the present age and country’s real needs, Bangladesh’s successes in forestation and sustainable management of forest are not up to the mark. The principal reasons, among many, that cause Bangladesh to fail to reach the expected target are seemed to us that the limitations of the Bangladesh Forest Department, absence of a comprehensive national policy for forest sector, and, above all, the crisis to take initiative to amend the existing laws or to frame time-congenial laws for forest sector and forest related issues to resolve the problems and meet the growing challenges of the sector.
We know the Bangladesh Forest Department is the single government organization responsible for afforestation and sustainable management of forest as well as for implementing forest related activities across the country. Importantly, the department has to perform a large area of activities of varied natures throughout the country. So, the department needs a large number of skilled and knowledgeable manpower, sufficient fund and modern facilities of training for its staff and even for its stake-holders and people concerned with forest sector. At present, manpower strength and other relevant facilities including budgetary measures available at the Forest Department are not sufficient.
Along side this, modernization in the administrative structure as well as in the organogram of the department is also a vital issue to review. Though it is an old organization, started functioning in 1862 during the British rule, the attention of the government, so far it has received in its longest serving life, is not enough to make the organization fit for fulfilling the demand of the age. The post of the CCF should be upgraded and accordingly the structure of the organization should be reorganized, suiting the demand of the age and the forest sector as a whole.
Though we are suggesting this, but we are not saying that the government has not done anything for the forest sector. Of course, the successive governments had taken sufficient initiatives for the sector and the present government is also taking a lot of initiatives. Even our present Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina has called upon every citizen of the country to plant at least a fruit seedling and a forest seedling to make the affforestation a complete success.
Under the initiatives of the present government, the Forest Depart-ment has already implemented a number of projects and has also undertaken some new proposals for the sector. These initiatives are praise-worthy. But what we are saying is that these initiatives are not sufficient to reach the desired goal within the stipulated period of time as well as to face the multifarious challenges of the sector, including the gradually deteriorating condition of environment due climate effects. Still the sector is to achieve 8 percent coverage. Realizing this, we urge the government to give more attention to the development of forest sector, especially the Forest Department, so that the department can be able to fulfil the present-day needs as well as to turn the tree plantation programme into a true social movement and a complete success across the country. Let us all hope for the best.