Indiscriminate use of toxic pesticides on crop fields inside the Rema-Kalenga Reserve Forest in Habiganj, the most diversified wildlife habitat in Bangladesh, poses threat to the flora and fauna.
After field visits, forestry and zoology teachers expressed concern over the killing of all sorts of pollinators by indiscriminate application of toxic pesticides on rice fields.
They said that toxic substances reduce wild animals’ reproductive power.
During a recent visit, New Age found forest villagers raising crops on at least 178 hectares of scattered crop fields inside the 1,795-hectare reserve forest.
The farmers were found regularly applying toxic pesticides to protect rice and the other crops.
According to forest officials, 228 farmers, re-settled inside the Rema-Kalenga Reserve Forest, were enlisted as forest villagers, during the British era.
These people were brought from areas devastated by floods, said forest officials.
Traditionally, their descendants raised crops inside the reserve forest, they said.
With forest department’s approval, each enlisted villager cultivates six bighas of forestland, forest officer of Kalenga Bit Helal Uddin told New Age.
Their settlement terms require the enlisted forest villagers to protect forest resources from illegal loggers and poachers, he added.
Each year, said forest villagers they raise three rice crops, the boro, the aman and the aush.
Nurullah, forest villagers’ headman for the Kalenga sadar bit, said that the rice crops face attacks mainly from stem borers, leaf hoppers, grass hoppers, rice bugs and rice hispas.
He said farmers routinely apply carbofuran, dioxathion, cypermethrin, microthiol and other pesticides at the stages of
tillering, booting, flowering, milky, soft dough and just before the harvest.
After a series of field visits, Dhaka University zoology professor MA Bashar said, t indiscriminate application of pesticides inside the forest was making enormous adverse impacts on its wildlife.
Bashar who pays frequent visits to the reserve forest to conduct butterfly census said toxic pesticides not only kill rice pests but also butterflies, frogs, earthworms and the other microbial.
Rema-Kalenga Reserve Forest, he said, is a famous habitat for over 100 butterfly species, including two large verities of the Troides genre which became extinct in the Sunderbans as well as the forests in Chittagong, Tangail and Sherpur.
In the rainy season, the pesticides seep into and pollute the forest water bodies including
Karenga Chhara and the Lakkhaiya Chhara, major water sources for the wildlife.
Bit officer Helal said that the Rema-Kalenga Reserve Forest is famous for 638 floral species including herbs like haritaki, bahera and jal dumur.
This reserve forest is also the habitat for 167 species of birds, 37 species of mammals, 18 species of reptiles and seven species of amphibians, said Helal.
Bashar said forest water contaminated with toxic pesticides eventually affects wildlife reproduction including birds, reptiles and the amphibian animals.
Shahjalal University of Science and Technology’s forestry and environmental science professor Mohammad Belal Uddin told New Age that wildlife habitats in the Rema-Kalenga Forest had been badly fragmented by rice cultivation.
The crop fields are expanding in regular basis depleting the forests, Belal said.
Sylhet divisional forest officer RSM Munirul Islam said that the Forest Department would soon replace rice farming with horticulture in the Rema-Kalenga Reserve Forest.
He said that biological pest control would be prioritized inside the reserve forest.