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Roads, high voltage power cables put wildlife at risk

Int’l Day of Forests today

Published : 21 Mar 2023 02:43 AM

Indiscriminate tree cutting, killing of wild animals, infrastructure projects, illegal settlements and high voltage power cables in reserved forests endanger wildlife.

Environmental activists and conservationists said that roads, railways and power lines are being constructed through reserved forests due to loopholes in laws and policies.  

“There are 1,618 kilometers of roads in 38 reserved forests in the country. The roads (1,618 kilometers) have been identified through using remote sensing data with the help of the Arannayk Foundation,” said Maksuda Aziz, a conservationist who works on wildlife and forests.

These roads pass through the important national parks and wildlife sanctuaries, including Lawachara, Bhawal, Himchari, Madhupur, Kaptai and Fasiakhali national parks, Pablakhali, Teknaf, Chunati and Satchari wildlife sanctuaries and Bangabandhu Safari Park. 

Environment activists, conservationists and experts said that the forests and wildlife should be considered when planning for building infrastructures and projects. Forests and wildlife are important for health and survival.  

With the theme ‘Forests and Health’ the International Day of Forests will be observed today (March 21) in the country elsewhere in the globe. 

On the occasion, the Forest Department and some other organisations have taken programmes in Dhaka and some other parts of the country. 

The Forest Department will organize a discussion on the day at Bon Bhaban at Agargaon in the capital at 10:00 am today (Tuesday). 

Deputy Minister for Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change Begum HabibunNahar, MP, will attend the event as the chief guest, while DrFarhina Ahmed,  Secretary of the Ministry, will attend as special guest. 

Cheques among the beneficiaries of social forestation will also be distributed at the event. 

Centre on Integrated Rural Development for Asia and the Pacific (CIRDAP) is also scheduled to observe the International Day of Forests. 

On the occasion, CIRDAP will arrange webinar series of 2023. The webinar will be held today. Dr Muhammad Israr, Secretary and IRD Expert at CIRDAP will present the keynote speech at the webinar.

The United Nations General Assembly proclaimed March 21 as the International Day of Forests in 2012 to raise awareness of the importance of all types of forests. 

Environment activists and conservationists called upon the government to take initiative so that the reserved forests are not destroyed, saying that the country’s reserved forest are facing problems. 

Lawachara now has a power line and trunk roads, in addition to railway tracks. Every year, many wild animals are killed due to high-voltage electricity.

Talking to Bangladesh Post, SyedaRizwana Hasan, chief executive of the Bangladesh Environmental Lawyers Association (BELA) said that digging the land of a reserved forest is a crime. The Forest Department should stop such work, she added.

Many other forests become fragmented as a result of unplanned construction, lack of awareness, insufficient legal protection, and lack of appropriate guidelines. For this reason, threats to wildlife continue to intensify.

In a report submitted to a parliamentary body in 2021, the Forest Department mentioned that over 1.60 lakh individuals and organisations grabbed 2.57 lakh acres of forestland across the country. Of the total grabbed land, 1.38 lakh acres of reserve forests were occupied by 88,215 individuals and organisations.

The forests of hilly areas are also in danger in Bangladesh as the hilly areas are cutting down indiscriminately. Environmental activists want intervention to stop cutting trees from hills to protect forests. 

The wildlife is at great risk for grabbing the forestland and cutting hilly areas. However, the wildlife killing is also going on rampantly. Many people involved in wildlife killing and also trade, which is a crime as per the law. 

Nargis Sultana Liza, a wildlife inspector at Wildlife Crime Control Unit (WCCU) of Forest Department told Bangladesh Post on Monday that they are working to control crimes related to wildlife. 

According to her, the WCCU rescued a total of 108 wildlife in the country in February last, while they rescued 315 wild animals in January.