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Dhaka Tribune

Bangladesh losing forest resources faster than global average

  • Govt expresses firm resolve to come down hard on encroachers of forestlands
  • World losing 10 football fields of forest per minute
Update : 08 Apr 2024, 05:22 PM

Bangladesh appears losing its crucial forest and plantation tree reserves faster than the global average.

If the just released Global Forest Watch (GFW) report is something to go by, area of forest in Bangladesh has witnessed an 8.7% decrease over the last two decades (2002-2023) whereas, the global average forest loss was 7.4% during the same period. 

Globally, the incidents of primary forest loss marked some reductions from 4.12 million hectares in 2022 to 3.74 million hectares last year, thanks to an impressive 36% and 49% decrease in primary forest loss in Brazil and Colombia respectively during that one year.

But Bangladesh witnessed a dramatic upturn in forest loss from 308 hectares in 2022 to 743 hectares last year, according to last week’s new data from the University of Maryland’s GLAD Lab made available on the World Resources Institute’s (WRI) Global Forest Watch platform.

Over the last two decades, Bangladesh lost 8,039 hectares of its forest resources at an annual rate of 8.7% decrease.  

Tree cover loss

Over the last two decades, Bangladesh also lost 246,000 hectares of tree cover, equivalent to a 13% decrease in its total tree cover since 2000.

The country lost 17,800 hectares of tree cover only in last year, much higher than 13,800 hectares lost in preceding year (2022). 

From 2001 to 2023, there was a total of 488 million hectares of tree cover loss globally, equivalent to a 12% decrease in tree cover since 2000.

Tree cover loss is not always deforestation, which typically referred to human-caused, permanent removal of natural forest cover. The tree cover loss data includes the loss of trees in natural forests as well as in plantations and tree crops. Loss of this tree cover can be due to human or natural causes and can be permanent or temporary.

Losing 10 football fields of forest per minute

According to Global Forest Watch (GFW) report, total tropical primary forest loss in 2023 totaled 3.7 million hectares, the equivalent of losing almost 10 football fields of forest per minute. 

While this represents a 9% decrease from 2022, the rate in 2023 was nearly identical to that of 2019 and 2021. All this forest loss produced 2.4 gigatons of carbon dioxide emissions in 2023, equivalent to almost half of the annual fossil fuel emissions of the US.

Washington-based World Resources Institute (WRI), a global research non-profit organization, established the GFW in 1997 beginning with four pilot countries – Cameroon, Canada, Gabon and Indonesia. It’s an online platform that provides data and tools for monitoring forests. GFW allows anyone to access near real-time information about where and how forests are changing around the world. Since its launch in 2014, over 4 million people have visited Global Forest Watch from every single country in the world.  

New tree cover loss data shows decline in primary forest loss in some countries but a persistent rate overall in 2023.

Between 2022 and 2023, Brazil and Colombia experienced a remarkable 36% and 49% decrease in primary forest loss, respectively. Yet despite these dramatic reductions, the rate of tropical primary forest loss in 2023 remained stubbornly consistent with recent years. 

As some countries show political will to reduce forest loss and others do not, the frontiers of forest loss are shifting: the notable reductions in Brazil and Colombia were counteracted by sharp increases in forest loss in Bolivia, Laos and Nicaragua, and more modest increases in other countries, the report states.

For instance, Brazilian president Luiz Inacio Lula da Silva has made thwarting deforestation a policy goal through strengthened law enforcement, revoking environmentally destructive policies, and recognizing indigenous territories.  

What the govt saying

Speaking at a meeting at his ministry last week, Environment, Forest and Climate Change Minister Saber Hossain Chowdhury expressed firm resolve illegally built establishments on forest lands.  

He said a map of illegal forest land encroachment will be prepared. 

He said actions would be taken against encroachers irrespective of government institutions, private individuals and organizations. “There will be no compromise on this.” 

The minister said 26,000 acres of forest land has been restored. 

In February this year, the government also launched the task of preparing Bangladesh’s second national forest inventory (NFI), over seven years after the first such exercise was initiated back in December 2016.   

Speaking at the inauguration program of the NFI, Saber Hossain Chowdhury, said: “The government of Bangladesh is committed to ensuring the protection and monitoring of its natural resources. The National Forest Inventory is the first stage to obtain a strong and digitized resource database. This database will be an asset to materialize our target under the SDG goals and international declarations as well as better management of our resources.” 

The official data presented before the first session of the parliament shows that over the last few years 257,000 hectares of forest lands have gone into the hands of illegal occupants. 

The World Bank, which is financing the Tk25 crore 2nd NFI of Bangladesh, says the country’s total forest area has been reduced to 18,834 square kilometers in 2021 from over 19,000 square km in 2006. 

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