Hundreds of acres of reserved forest in Rangamati’s Sajek is being burned down in fire made for traditional jhum (slash-and-burn) cultivation.
Jhum farming, practiced in Chittagong hill tracts, requires clearing of the forest areas to sow seeds after the first considerable rainfall during April-May, reports UNB.
This longstanding system damages biodiversity of the forest, including rare species of flora and fauna in the hill area. As a result, nature loses its balance while the lives of wild animals, birds, and insects become threatened.
In a recent visit, it was observed that the fire has spread over hundreds of acres of reserved forest and surrounding local residential areas.
Due to destruction of forest areas, the water level has gone down and there is an acute shortage of water in the hills and wells, resulting in increasing water borne diseases.
To prevent locals from setting fire to the hills, the administration often issues stern messages, which have been ineffective to say the least.
Local Sajek UP Chairman Nelson Chakma and village head claim they set fire to the hills as they have no alternative source of income and food.
They have to starve if they do not cultivate crops this way.
They said they will stop burning forests for cultivation if the government creates alternative employment opportunities for them.
Abul Fazal, president of the Baghaichhari Environmental Protection Committee and a lecturer of biology at Kachalong Government College, informed that burning down of forest in the name of jhum farming would have dire consequences.
“Water levels would fall and disasters will follow. The government should arrange alternative source of income and food for the locals. Otherwise, the environmental catastrophe will take a deadly turn,” he remarked.