IT IS unethical for seven private resorts and picnic spots to have structures built occupying government forest lands in Gazipur in collusion with a section of corrupt government officials. These private resorts and picnic spots are Shilpi Kunja Picnic Spot, Shohag Palli Resort Zone, Rangamati Water Front, Aranyak Bungalow Bari, ACI Bungalow Bari, Mamataj Picnic Spot and Nuhash Polli. A three-member Anti-Corruption Commission team, as New Age reported on Monday, found that Shilpi Kunja Picnic Spot occupied 0.20 acres of land of the forest department while Shohag Palli Resort Zone occupied 2.40 acres, Rangamati Water Front grabbed one acre, Aranyak Bungalow Bari grabbed 0.22 acres, ACI Bungalow Bari grabbed 0.30 acres, Mamataj Picnic Spot occupied 0.41 acre and Nuhash Polli grabbed 0.60 acres of land of the department. This, again, indicates how the natural resources of Bangladesh, such as forests, rivers, lakes and canals are under constant threat of obliteration at the hands of humans. Powerful sections of people have been encroaching upon these resources either to set up homesteads or to wheedle extra profits out of these resources.
As the largest contiguous stretch of mangrove ecosystem in the world, and one of the last bastions of the Royal Bengal Tiger, and also because of the protection that these mangroves offer to the coastal communities from cyclones and storm surges, protecting Sundarban should be a top priority. However, our past experiences and the current state of Bangladesh’s forests tend to suggest that the forest department is oriented to viewing natural forests not as fragile ecosystems that need protection but as resources meant for harvesting for the government’s revenue. Unfortunately, the ravaging of Sundarban also seems to be on the rise. In Bangladesh, successive governments since liberation have done very little to take worthwhile measures to slow down the rate of destruction and reverse the process through conservation. Experts said lack of political will and non-enforcement of the law were contributing to depletion of biodiversity. They also said the pattern of land-use had been transformed, with more and more natural habitats being converted into human habitations, urban centres, roads, embankments and factories. All these have damaged natural habitats and ecosystems, with at least 23 species of globally threatened mammals, birds and reptiles already extinct in Bangladesh.
Be that as it may, the government needs to act in compliance with the UN Convention on Biological Diversity which stipulates, ‘Biodiversity–– the biological and ecological diversity of plants, animals and microbes–– is important for maintaining life-sustaining systems.’ In the light of this convention, the relevant government departments should undertake programmes to educate the local residents on the importance of trees and bushes and how they help people in many ways. The government as well as local political leaders, irrespective of political camps, must come forward with programmes to create awareness among the people regarding the harmful impact of felling trees in forests where different species of animals, insects and birds live. As regards the current issue, Dhaka division forest officer must take necessary steps against those responsible following the ACC probe report.
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