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Losing our forests

  • Published at 05:02 pm October 2nd, 2019
Photo : Bigstock

The recent Amazon fires have drawn a great deal of attention to the issue of deforestation worldwide. Deforestation is not just a problem in the Amazon but a problem in many countries. Deforestation mainly occurs due to economic activities that require the clearing of forests. Many people make money by clearing land through deforestation because this land can be used for growing cash crops that have demand worldwide.

Most governments are not conscious about protecting the forests of their country. It is not only the highly controversial leaders we talk about so often who care more about money than the environment; the situation is similar in many African countries, in the Indian sub-continent and in Southeast Asia. Deforestation has been slowly and steadily ridding Bangladesh of its greenery as well.

As the population of the world increases, there is more demand for agricultural goods. A lot of the slash and burn agriculture is done just to meet these demands. In Indonesia, it is pure business. Every year, vast amounts of forests are cleared to make room for palm oil plantations which is a lucrative business. This causes heavy smog in neighbouring countries such as Philippines, Vietnam and Malaysia.  Bangladesh does not have many incidents of forest fires as slash and burn agriculture is not common here. However, forests are cleared here, too, for different reasons.

Deforestation in Bangladesh

All the forests of Bangladesh are going through some form of deforestation, thus adding to greenhouse gas emissions. There are different types of forests all over Bangladesh. There are semi-evergreen forests in Chittagong Hill Tracts and Sylhet hills, Sal forests in Tangail, Mymensingh and Dinajpur, and the mangrove forest in the Sundarbans. 

Bangladesh is a country of 163 million people, with 1 million Rohingya refugees living here as well. It is needless to say that when there are so many people living in such a small space, there will be an ever increasing need for land. Vast areas of forests were felled to make space for the Rohingya camps in Cox’s Bazar. 

While official records say that the forest coverage in Bangladesh is 19%, Philip Gain, Director of SEHD (Society for Environment and Human Development) contradicts this number and says it is merely 4.5-5%. According to him, the forests of Bangladesh have no proper protection. Even the so called protected areas of forests are used for harvesting timber. This is due to negligence from the authorities. 

Why does deforestation matter?

Deforestation is harmful for the environment because it causes the amount of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere to increase. Trees act like traps for carbon dioxide, and when deforestation occurs, most of this carbon dioxide is released back into the air. Carbon dioxide is a powerful greenhouse gas and an increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere will cause global warming to speed up. It can be said that deforestation is directly related to climate change.

At a time when the world should be planting more trees, age-old forests are being cut down or burned. Strict internationals laws and strong enforcement of these laws are required to combat the global trend of deforestation. Activism and awareness can also make a big difference because, at the end of the day, government leaders are bound to address the concerns of their citizens.