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Afforestation


Afforestation process of planting trees on land formerly used for purposes other than forestry. Reforestation, on the other hand is the restocking of existing woodlands that have been depleted. In Bangladesh the degradation of forests is a problem for more reasons than just the loss of forest-based products. The forests under the control of the Forest Department have been classified into hill forests, mangrove forests and plain land forests. The hill forests belonging to tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen species extend over the hilly eastern part of the country. Over four hundred tree species have been found in the hill forest region. According to one estimate more than 100,000 ha of hill forests have been replaced by plantations of valuable and fast growing species. Around 12,000 ha of plantation are raised in hill forests every year. It is also kwn that about 1.8 million acres of forestland is available for plantation development activities.

Mangrove vegetation, a complex of plant communities covering large areas fringing sheltered tropical shores of South Asia, is of outstanding ecological interest. It is also of considerable ecomic importance, t only indirectly, because of its part in reclaiming land from the sea, but also directly as a source of much needed ecomic and commercial products. The sundarbans are of value as far as cultivation of crops is concerned, and are almost devoid of human habitation since they are t open to settlement, excepting the rthern fringe, which is w being reclaimed, often unlawfully. This tidal forest region extends inland for about 120 km. However, coastal plantations cover an area of about 0.15 million ha with mangrove species, mainly keoda and baen and at present more than 8,000 ha of such land are planted annually. The coastal afforestation programme provides environmental protection against cyclones and associated storm surges and tidal bores as well. Furthermore, they stabilize soil and make the newly accreted land suitable for agriculture besides meeting the fuel wood and pulp wood requirements.

Plain land forests abound in the highlands of the central and rthwestern parts of the country. Kwn as inland Sal forests, as Sal is the predominant species in these forests, the quality of trees is poor and is in danger of being encroached upon. It is estimated that only about 30 percent of the area is under tree cover. The degraded areas are w being planted with fast growing species. By w over 15,000 ha of plantations have been raised in plain land Sal forests.

Homestead forestry is ather method by which forest resources are being enhanced and it has an important environmental component. But as it stands today, programmes for community forestry or large-scale social forestry in Bangladesh have had limited success so far on account of minal participation from local villagers. For the sustainable management of forest resources, it is thus necessary to ensure active participation of the people at large, especially the womenfolk as trees have always been central to women's life-style. [M Aminul Islam]