The total area of forest land in Bangladesh is 2.53 million hectares representing about only 17.5% of the country’s total land area. Bangladesh Forest Department manages 1.53 million hectares of forest land while the rest is unstated forest land and village forests. Globally forests cover around 31% of the total land area. In terms of that, Bangladesh is far behind especially due to its huge population as well as lack of maintenance of forest lands.
The Father of the Nation Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman first initiated the tree plantation campaign after independence. But after his brutal killing in 1975, those initiatives were lost for a while. Bangladesh Awami League, under the leadership of Sheikh Hasina, has been planting trees since 1984 starting the tree plantation campaign every year on the first day of Bengali month of Ashar, But, trees are widely cut illegally throughout Bangladesh. Hence, we are standing this far from our goal.
While inaugurating the National Tree Plantation Campaign 2020, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina reaffirmed her call to the people to plant more trees to protect environment, saying that saving natural environment is a must. She also said that the plantation of trees is very much essential for ensuring food and nutrition of the people alongside their economic prosperity. From the very beginning, she urged the people to plant at least three trees – one fruit, one wood and one medicinal.
Minister for Environment, Forests and Climate Change Md Shahab Uddin said after the inauguration of the campaign by the prime minister, three saplings – one fruit, one wood and one medicinal will be officially planted in every district and upazila. Later, 20,325 saplings will be planted in each of 492 upazilas of the country at a convenient time in the current tree plantation season from July 16 to September 15 by maintaining the health codes in the wake of coronavirus outbreak.
Recently, we have seen reports that, the global temperature is increasing alarmingly. The impacts of rising temperatures aren’t waiting for some far-flung future. Rather, the effects of global warming are appearing right now. The heat is melting glaciers and sea ice, shifting precipitation patterns and setting animals on the move. All of these changes are emerging as humans continue to add heat-trapping greenhouse gases to the atmosphere. Along with reducing heat generating activities, tree plantation and preservation is the only solution to contain the problem globally. Bangladesh also needs to do its part.
During the last few decades, natural calamities have increased significantly. Though due to great efforts of the government, we have seen minimal damage from these natural calamities in Bangladesh during the last decade, the situation is getting worse. While we were hit by cyclones once in a few years, now we are facing that multiple times a year. On many occasions, Sundarbans, the largest mangrove forest of the world has saved us from such natural calamities to a large extent. Hence, we must protect this mangrove forest at any cost and also create new mangrove forests.
Bangladesh is a country of rivers. We have many ‘Char’ areas in these rivers and these are immediately captured by people. But the government should select few of these for creating mangrove forests. Though mangroves are usually created naturally, planting mangrove trees without any interference of people will definitely give birth to new forest areas. These mangrove forests will not only protect us from natural calamities but will also protect bio-diversity by containing habitats of different birds, animals and insects.
Every year we hear about soil erosion at the river banks. If we look properly, we will find several houses, shops, markets and other infrastructures standing very close to the river banks. Along with soil erosion from rain or flood, these infrastructures actually weaken the soil integrity alongside the riverbanks. The local government administration should take an initiative to clear all establishments on the riverbanks and should plant trees, which grow fast and have strong roots, alongside the river banks. It will reduce river erosion as well as will protect the nature and the environment.
We will distribute one crore saplings nationally under the new tree plantation campaign. But we really do not know what happened with the saplings we distributed during the last campaigns. Hence, this time the process should be different. We should involve both the ruling party leaders and activists and local government administration. The party leaders and activists should plant these saplings at every village, every union of the country. They should involve the people in the protection of these plants. The local government administration should monitor the whole process.
At least for one year, the planted saplings should be taken care of and only after ten years, the local authority should be allowed to cut a grown tree while planting at least another sapling.
Only if the process can be beneficiary for everyone, then all will see it as an investment and the tree plantation campaign will succeed. Otherwise, we will not be able to reach our current target of 25% forest land. Moreover, we have to contain corruption regarding forestation. If anyone cuts a tree illegally, he should be severely punished. If we cannot involve people, leaders, activists and administration, then this national campaign will end on positing thousands of pictures on social media only.
Moreover, the government should instruct all building owners at urban areas to plant at least three new trees and the municipality authority should monitor the compliance of the instruction. Monitoring here means checking and inspiring the building owners, not fining. Additionally, all institutions should be instructed to plant at least ten new trees and that should be monitored also by the same authority. At rural areas, the leaders should run a campaign under which every family will plant at least three new plants at their yard or alongside the adjacent roads. If we can ensure majority’s participation, then Bangladesh will turn into greenery and our huge population will be of maximum benefit.
Not only for environmental protection but also for ensuring food security, tree plantation has become vital in Bangladesh. We are now troubled with COVID-19 pandemic and it can have serious impact on the food security over the next few years. Tree plantation is a strong solution to that threat. Moreover, COVID-19 has taught us the importance of preserving nature. More greenery will help creating natural habitats of different species as well as will reduce environmental pollution. It will also decrease the threats of COVID-19 like deadly viruses in the future.
Here, we should put extra focus on medicinal or herbal trees. These trees are very effective in maintaining the environmental equilibrium as well as can come as a solution of our health problems. Many of these trees can even help in ensuring food security. For keeping the environment fresh, herbal trees can play a big role and hence, PM Hasina has also emphasized on planting such trees.
Planting the trees is not a problem in Bangladesh but the preservation of these planted trees is a great challenge. We hope Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina, with her far-sighted vision, will realize this problem and will take initiatives for the preservation of these trees. A green Bangladesh will help us to achieve our goals including development goals, ensuring environmentally balanced Bangladesh. We wish for the success of this new campaign.
The writer is Chief Editor
at Mohammadi News Agency (MNA), Editor at Kishore Bangla and
Research Center (DRC)