Bangladesh is going to observe International Day of Forest today with a campaign styled ‘more heat with less wood’ when it has far less than the standard forest coverage and data deficiency on countrywide wood energy consumption.
The country also lacks the required infrastructure and adequate wood source for converting fuelwood or biomass into renewable energy supply, experts have said.
They suggest that the government should undertake research initiatives to measure fuelwood consumption and implement sustainable use of wood energy.
Expressing concern, they point out that the country is facing fast degradation of forest for various reasons including high consumption of forest resources.
Professor Saiful Alam at Institute of Forestry and Environmental Science of Chittagong University blames inconsiderate felling of trees and high dependency on woods for domestic cooking and other commercial purposes, such as burning tobacco and bricks, for the forest degradation.
When sought for, no data on the countrywide fuelwood consumption was found at Bangladesh Forest Research Institute, with its chief scientific officer Mohammad Mohiuddin saying that the government’s dedicated wing still did not have any research in the particular field.
Abdur Rouf, chief scientific officer at the Institute of Fuel Research and Development under Bangladesh Council of Scientific and Industrial Research, referring to some independent studies, however, says that annually around four crore tonnes of biomass including dry leaves, branches of tree are burnt as fuelwood in the country.
Professor Saiful Huque, director at the Institute of Energy at Dhaka University, says wood residues, dry leaves and rice husk can be converted into briquette and pellet — alternative fuels.
‘But fuelwood could be used as renewable energy source if the forestation was higher than the deforestation rate in the country,’ he thinks.
Saiful observes that the under-pressure forest cover is far less than the standard required for a country’s biodiversity.
A recently published Asian Development Bank report sets at 0.18 per cent the annual deforestation rate of Bangladesh that ranks it the second worst among the South Asian countries where deforestation is rampant.
With only 11 per cent of the total land area, the forest coverage of Bangladesh was also ranked the fourth worst among the South Asian countries, having less than 23 per cent of national forest coverage, according to the ADB report.
Forest officials, however, claim that the total forest coverage of Bangladesh is 17 per cent, including social forestation.
Saiful, though termed the idea of social forestation futile due to unplanned tree felling, suggests that the government plan demand-based forestation to reduce pressure on the natural forests.
Chief conservator of forest Mohammad Shafiul Alam Chowdhury says that the forest department takes up projects to plant trees on the newly reclaimed shoals on a regular basis.
The government has a plan to increase the forest coverage to 20 per cent within 2020, he informs.
The United Nations’ General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as International Day of Forests in 2012 to raise awareness of the importance of tree coverage in and outside of all types of forests.
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