On the occasion of International Forest Day, a series of reports on forest and biodiversity of Bangladesh has been published in Prothom Alo. The data that has emerged in these reports is very worrying. Almost all natural forests, including the three main forests of Bangladesh, are subject to encroachment and pollution.

According to Prothom Alo, the size of the world's largest mangrove forest Sundarbans is getting smaller day by day. In 1904-24, the area of ​​this forest was 7142 square kilometres. In 2015-16, it stood at 6,871 sq km. The size of the forest has become smaller in the last few years. The Rampal Coal Power Project was established next to the Sundarbans. Not only power projects, but many more private projects have been undertaken in its vicinity, which is expected to have a serious impact on the Sundarbans.

The shrinking size of the Sundarbans means declining forest and animal resources. According to the World Bank's 2020 report, there are 528 species of trees and shrubs in the forest, and 300 species of birds. There are 58 species of reptiles, 42 species of mammals and 9 species of amphibians. There are 250 species of fish in the rivers and canals of the Sundarbans. There are many species of insects, crabs, snails and oysters. There are different types of fungi, algae.

The Sundarbans protects Bangladesh from the cyclones that occur in the Bay of Bengal every year. For this reason it is called a natural shield. Now if we weaken this natural shield in the name of development, not only the plants but also the animals will die.

The existence of Bangladesh depends on the existence of Sundarbans. The forests of the Chittagong Hill Tracts are also being destroyed in the name of so-called development. According to Prothom Alo, a huge forest called Sita Pahar, 40 km away from Kaptai Lake in Rangamati, has been used for orchards, settlements, hotels and motels.

Despite locals’ objection, development projects have been taken up, destroying many forests and hills in Bandarban and Khagrachhari. On the other hand, the condition of Madhupur, the third largest forest area, is even more deplorable. According to a statistic, Madhupur, which was created on 45,000 acres of land, now has only 9,000 acres of forest. The rest has been occupied.

According to the Global Forest Watch (GFO) and the World Resource Institute (WRI), , 3.7 per cent of Bangladesh's natural forests were destroyed between 2002 and 2020. And in Chattogram and Chittagong Hill Tracts this rate is more than 9 per cent. The three districts of the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Bandarban, Khagrachhari and Rangamati cover 40 per cent of the total forest area of ​​the country.

On the other hand, 78 per cent of all the trees grown across the country were in Chattogram and Chittagong Hill Tracts. According to the two organisations, most of the new trees, mostly of fruits and timber, have been planted by destroying natural forests and replacing these with orchards and agricultural land.

We must stop grabbing of natural forests, if we do not want to destroy the natural environment. We must protect forests and biodiversity in the interest of human and sustainable development. We hope the government will take quick and effective steps in this regard.