State Of Forestry In Bangladesh
Niaz Ahmed Khan and Dr. Mohammed Millate-e-Mustafa
parallel systems of production forestry exist in Bangladesh: government forests
managed by the Forest Department (FD) and privately owned homegardens. Of the
country’s total land area, about 1.48 million hectares (ha) are designated as
government forest land that covers both natural and plantation forests. About
0.72 million ha of land are disignated as unclassified state forests under the
control of the Ministry of Land. Homegardens constitute 0.27 ma he and are
scattered all over the country. The public forest land, un-classed state forests
and homegardens together make up about 17% (2.46 million hectares) of the
potential tree growing area of the country the lowest figure of any South Asian
country. Recent studies further estimate that the actual forest cover is
approximately one m ha or only 6% of the total land area.
the basis of geographical location, climate, topography and management
principles. the forests of Bangladesh can broadly be classified into Hill
forests, UN-classed state forests, Plain land Sal forests, Mangrove forests,
Coastal forests and Homegardens (Table 1).
1: Spatial distribution and stock of forest resources in Bangladesh
million ha (% of total land)
stock million m3 (stock ling m3/ha++)
land Sal forests
rounding prevent figures from adding up exactly. ++ refers to wood volume, not
Forests: The hill forests of Bangladesh are located in the mountanous tracts of
the greater Chittagong. Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHTs) and Sylhet districts. The
forest are covers about 0.67 ma ha of land, which is 27% of the total forest
land of Bangladesh. The forests consist of a mixture of many tropical evergreen
and tropical deciduous species (over 400 tree species) occurring in association
with each other and with bamboo Garjan is the dominant species along with tall
canopy of other woody species such as Chapalish, Civit,, Champa, Telsur, Gamar,
Dhakijam, Teak, and Toon. The upper stratum reaches about 45-60 m height.
Bamboo’s, canes and evergreen herbs and shrubs occur as undergrowth in these
forests. The low yielding heterogeneous forests are reforested artificially with
high yielding indigenous and exotic species. About 75% of the growing stock of
these forests is located in natural forests and 25% in plantations (Ali 1994).
these forests are categorized in public documents as ‘closed multi-storied
high forests’, large areas have recently been degraded owing mainly to such
reasons as illegal commercial logging (especially on steep slope), organized
encroachment and conversion of forest lands for agriculture and homestead
purposes, and attack of Gamar and Teak by Loranthus. In several parts of CHT,
soil erosion is also on the increase, which in turn contributes to the problem
of silting in the Kaptai Lake. Present productivity of the forests has declined
to a range of 22.214.171.124 m3 per hectare per annum from 7-8 m3 twenty years ago. The
forests supply around 40 per cent of the commercial timber production.
State Forests (USF): These forest, concentrated in CHT, covers about 0.72 m ha
of land, which is about 29% of the total forest land of Bangladesh. The land is
controlled by the Ministry of Land, while FD manages the forestry activities
therein. Garjan, Chapalish, Koroi and Chandal are some of the commercially
important timer species found in these forests.
lands have lately been subjected to heavy commercial exploitation in connivance
with and collaboration of unscrupulous staff of the concerned public agencies
including forest, land revenue and police departments. Besides sharing the same
problems as those of the hill forests, the forest management system here suffers
from a serious lack of interagency coordination (especially between the forest
and land revenue departments). There has been a decline in the resource base of
these forests of 17 per cent over the last 25 years.
Land Sal Forests: The plain land Sal (Shorea robusta) covers about 0.12 ma ha of
land, which is about 5% of the total forests are located mostly in patches in
the greater districts of Dhaka, Mymensingh, Comilla, Tangail, Rajshahi, Rangpur
and Dinajpur. The main species is Sal. The canopy is 10-25 m in height. This is
a coppicing, deciduous species: but coppice shools generally lack vigour because
of the age of the stumps and maltreatment due to repeated, and too frequest
cutting Koroi, Haldu, Bazna, Kumbi, Sheora, Hargaza, Amloki also occur in these
is the only forest type available to the greater majority population of the
country. However owing to such factors as over exploitation, conversion of
forest lands into agriculture, fire and grazing, the productivity of the forests
has reduced to an alarmingly low level. Most parts of the Sal forests are now
sub lands with only 25% tree cover. The Sal forest of Tangail is one of the most
hard hit areas: declining from 8060 ha in 1970 to 403 ha in 1990. Most of the
remaining Sal forests are located in the highlands of the Madhupur Track. The
northwestern part of the country is practically devoid of any major stock of
Forests: Bangladesh has the largest single tract of mangrove forests of the
world. The forests are found in the south and southwestern deltaic zones. The
forest area covers about 0.57 m ha of land, which accounts for nearly 23% of the
total forest land of Bangladesh. This is an important natural resources,
comprised of 60% of the commercially productive forests, including plantations,
which provides timber, pulpwood, fuelwood, fish, thatching materials, honey,
bees, walk and shells (Tabassum and Andaleeb 1998). It houses unique flora and
fauna, and acts as a natural barrier against cyclones and tidal surges. The
height of this forest is moderate, varying from 5 to 15 m. Sundri and Gewa are
the dominant species. The former makes good quality timber, while the latter
provides raw material for a newsprint mill and some smaller enterprises
including match factories. Other notable species include Keora, Goran and Pasur.
Golpata and ferns from the undergrowth. Between 0.5 and 0.6 ma people directly
depend on the Sunderbans for their livelihood.
Sundarbans forests support numerous and diverse animals, including the famous
Royal Bengal Tigers, birds, amphibians and reptiles of commercial and
conservation importance. The fauna includes 120 commercially important fish
species, 270 species of birds (including 95 types of water fowl), 50 species of
reptiles, and 42 species of mammals like tigers, rhesus monkeys, spotted deer
and wild boars.
Sundarbans, categorized as ‘Reserved Forest’, has been managed as a
productive forest since the late 18th century. the forests are managed, on
principle, on a ‘sustained yield basis with a 20 years cutting cycle.
‘Nevertheless, the forests are in a state of decline due to a combination of
causes, some of which are man-made including, unsustainable forestry management.
After the construction of the Farkka Barrage in the Indian state of West Bengal
(Bangla), the fresh water flow through the Sundarbans has been reduced due to
drastic changes in biotic and edaphic factors. The other major threats to the
Sundarbans ecosystem include shrimp farming, indiscriminate felling, unplanned
polder construction and water development projects, and diseases especially the
‘top dying of Sundri trees’. The forests depleted in growing stock 35% over
25 years to 1985.
are remnants of some 9000 ha of forests in the greater Chittagong districts
known as Chakaria Sundarbans. According to the Department of Environment, these
forests have been almost completely destroyed in the last 12 years shrimp
culture having devoured most of the forestland there.
Plantations: These forests are found in the coastal areas of Bangladesh. The
forest covers about 0.11 ma ha of land, which is nearly 4.5% of the total forest
land of Bangladesh Governmental coastal plantations were initiated in 1961 with
a view to providing protection against natural calamities. Subsequently, since
1966 afforestation activities in the coastal areas have been intensified for (i)
stabilization of coastal land, (ii) acceleration of acceleration of accretion
and (stabilization of the same for agriculture) and (iii) meeting the demands
for fuelwood and industrial raw materials. The main species are Keora, Baen and
Golpata, Shrimp culture, salt manufacturing, grazing fishing, erosion and stem
borer infection are the major problems in these forests.
Homegardens are well established traditional land use systems in Bangladesh.
These are a particularly appropriate form of agroforestry, being operational
units for subsistence in which different crops including perennial plants are
grown in mixture with livestock and /or fish. Homegardens cover about 0.27 ma ha
of land, which is nearly 11% of the total forest land of Bangladesh.
wide variety of trees, shrubs and vegetables are grown in the Bangladesh
homegardens. Millat-e-Mustafa et al. (1996) recorded 92 perennial species in the
set of 80 homegardens surveyed in four physiographic regions (20 form each
region) of Bangladesh. The common trees and shrubs are Coconut, Betel nut,
Mango, Jackfruit, Lichi, Guava, Lemon, Jujube, Papaya, Banana, Koroi, Rain tree,
Mahogany, Neem, Kadam and Banjo.
typical Bangladeshi homegarden, the vertical stratification of vegetation has
long been recognized as one of its characteristic features, though the variation
of height within any one stratum has led to some arguments as to the
distinctness of the various strata. Millat-e, Mustafa provides a useful general
summary of strata (these strata are dynamic and there is constant recruitment
from one stratum to another).
Vegetables, spices, tubers, roots, pineapple
Food plants e.g. lemon, banana, papaya, guava
Saplings of fruit/timber trees all growing taller
Fruit/timber trees, some growing taller
A few fruit/timber trees
Timber trees, Bamboo
the physical and socio economic points of view, homegardens are more reliable
than crops fields for growing trees and vegetables and are important sources of
income for the farmers of Bangladesh. It is observed that farmers tend to sell
cropland to fight against pauperization, but retain their homegardens unless
absolutely unavoidable: Even functionally landless farmers have their own
homegardens, where they grow the essential commodies for subsistanc. It is
observed that over half of the fruits, vegetables and spices grown in the
homegardens are sold to meet family expenses. In Bangladesh farmers spent only
4.8-12.2% of their total labour. In homegarden management, but 26% to 47% of the
total family expenses are met from selling homegarden products. During the last
40 years. the relative importance has shifted from the traditional forestry (in
the government managed forests) to homegardens in such a way that today about
55% of requirement of timber, fuelwood and bamboo are met from the homegarden
estimate shows that homegardens have a growth rate of 5 percent while the rate
of removal stands at 10 per cent per annum. However, the productivity in
homestead forests in 7 to 8 times higher than in government owned forests.
Features and Issues of Bangladesh Forestry
sector contributes only 3 per cent of the nation’s GDP, which is insignificant
in highlighting the real importance of the sectors. Country’s major source of
energy and rural house and furniture construction materials are still the out
product of forest department. Forest also plays the vital role of protecting the
watersheds, irrigation structure, coastal areas and above all the environment
forests on state lands have been subjected to organized illicit commercial
logging, unplanned and abrupt conversion to agriculture and other non forestry
uses, fire, gracing and other anthropogenic influences. Northwest Bangladeshi
has only about 2 per cent tree cover. In 1980s, the rate of forest destruction
was 8,000 hectares and the annual deforestation rate is estimated to be 3.3.
Consequently, per capita forestland has declined from 0.035 ha in 1969 to 0.02
ha in 1990.
impact and manifestation of such alarming rate of deforestation are
multifaceted. Deforestation causes decrease in water holding capacity, increased
soil erosion and loss of habitat and biodiversity. The cost of these impacts on
the economy was estimated to be 1% GDP in 1990. Decrease in timber and other
forest products incur direct economic loss. People living in the rural and hilly
areas who depend on first for subsistance are affected. Many of the plants and
animals that once inhabited have either quietly vanished or have been on their
way to extinction. During the last century, such animals as Rhinos, Bisons, and
Gaur have slowly disappeared. So did a number of bird species including the
famous pink headed wood ducks, which were only available in Bangladesh and
Assam. A considerable number of different species of snakes and reptiles has
northeast and southeastern forests of CHT has been drastically reduced over the
last three decades. Leopards, bears, deer and other animals, which were found in
abundance in the plain land Sal forests, have disappeared with the denundtation
of the forest trees.
as an integral part of the Ministry of Environment and Forest (MOEF-formed in
1989), administers the country’s forest resources and manages the public
forest lands. The department operates with the policies, procedures and
methodologies which reflect the previous situation under which the country’s
land to population ratio justifies a custodial forestry approach (keeping people
out of the forest). Slow pace of institutional reform and bureaucratic
re-orientation, shortage of technical and skilled staff, poor enforcement of
policies and programmes, and weak environment monitoring tend to be the major
constraints of this department. However, the government in its determination to
expand and conserve natural forests has lately recognized the need for
developing adequate policy and planning framework, including appropriate
institutional reforms to promote people’s involvement in the forest management
ever increasing population of Bangladesh is imparting pressure on existing
forests for more food, fuel wood, timber, fodder and other forest products and
is resulting in the over exploitation of government managed forest resources.
The current population is about 126 ma and is estimated to reach 177.3 ma by
2025 and 210.8 million by 2050. About 70% of the plain land Sal forests are
encroched. Other forest lands are also degarded, and as a result, their
productivity of mangrove forest lands are also degarded, and as a result, their
productivity is unacceptably low. ODA estimates that the productivity of
mangrove forest has declined by 25% over a period of 25 years. Similarly, the
yield of hill forests has declined at the same rate. Present productivity of
forests has declined to a range of 1.5-2.5 m3 twenty years ago.
recuperative capacity of the natural growth of plants has failed to keep pace
with the increasing level of demand. In 1984, the estimated per capita
consumption of fuelwood and timber was only 0.08 m3 and 0.00 m3, respectively.
It was perhaps the lowest level of consumption in the world. Even if the
consumption level would remain the same, the projected supply would be able to
satisfy only 26% of fuelwood and 41% of timber requirement in the year 1995, and
20% of the projected demand of fuel wood and 33% of timber respectively of the
year 2000. The rate of forest resources depletion is much faster than that of
the contemporary attempts in afforestation and the rehabilitation of denuded
resource base. This dismal forestry situation of the country is further
exacerbated by the eccentric spatial distribution of the existing government
forest areas. Almost 48% of the government forests are located in the eastern
region of the country along the international frontiers (hill forests). Another
23% is on the southwestern corner along the Bay of Bengal (mangrove forests).
The vast flat countryside where almost the whole
population live has only 0.12 million ha of plain land Sal forests. Out
of the 64 districts of the country, 28 districts have no public forest at all.
While major portions of the natural hill forests are inaccessible and, hence,
either under utilized., the accessible forests have been over utilised or
denuded and in parts encroached. Furthermore, there is very little scope to
expand forest areas horizontally.
view of the above problems limitations and challenges of the Bangladesh forestry
sector, community based participatory afforestation practices have been
increasingly felt to be the most feasible strategy for the long term
sustainability of the forest. Experts suggest that there is significant scope
for vertical expansion of forests through multiple forestry practices. It is
estimated that some 1.51 ma ha (or 10.4% of the total land area) of marginal and
fallow land can potentially be made available and brought under forestry and
environmental improvement project through participatory forestry programmes
facilitated by the government and NGOs. Such programmes also make a judicious
use of the disadvantaged sections of country’s human resources including 48%
women and nearly 10 m educated unemployed youth.
Source: The Bangladesh Observer,September 16, 2001