Forest and Forestry
Forest and Forestry though not much fossil evidence is available, studies indicate that extensive forest under tropical range existed in the tertiary period in parts of Bangladesh. Glutaxylon, Dipterocarpoxylon, Cynometroxylon fossils, all from Miocene beds, discovered in adjacent areas have affinities with species found today in tropical conditions. A good amount of Angiosperm plant fossils have also been discovered from areas adjoining Bangladesh. The tertiary period was followed by a period of glaciation. Advances occurred during the Pleistocene period, starting from about a million years ago, and ending at 25000 BC. The advances were interrupted by interglacial periods, when the climate became less cold. This lowering of temperature eliminated most mammals and also helped in extinction of Tertiary and Siwalik flora.
In the proto-historic period, civilization flourished in the Sind and Punjab (dating 4000 BC to 5000 BC); people then were great users of timbers. No record, however, is available about the forests of Bengal for the period. There are evidence of a flourishing Dravidian civilization in 2000 BC. The forests had a great role to play in the development of this civilization. The early Aryans were pastoral people, interested in agriculture. They cleared forests in certain areas to settle down, and maintained all their industries in the sylvan surroundings of the forest. Vedas, Brahmanas, Aranyakas, and Puranas throw light on the forest and forestry of the subcontinent during those period, and their distribution and composition can be conjectured from the two literary contribution of the post-vedic period, viz Ramayana, and Mahabharata. Frequent references of Sal (Shorea robusta), Dhab (Anogeissus latefolia), Billa (Aegle marmelos), Kinsuka (Butea monosperma), etc have been made which are common species in Bangladesh forests. In the epics it is recorded that dense forests existed along the Ganges but it is difficult to ascertain from the description where the forest was located.
The next period to take into consideration is the period of Greek invasion and the Maurya Kingdom. Megasthenes described the period as one when 'many huge mountains abounded in fruit trees and many vast plains of great fertility more or less beautiful but all alike intersected by multitudes of rivers'. Emperor Ashoka was a great lover of forests and wildlife and took steps to preserve them. hiuen-tsang visited India between 629-645 AD. His memoir gives extensive information on the distribution of forests at that time. He recorded deep forests in Sravasti, Kapilabastu, and nearby regions including Ramgram. From Ramgram 'he went north-east through a great forest road being a narrow dangerous path with wild oxen and wild elephants, and robbers and hunters always in wait to kill travellers, and emerging from forests he reached the country of Krishnagara'. The great traveller crossed PUN-NA-FA-TAN or Pundrabardhana (Pabna according to Cunningham, and Rangpur according to Ferguson). He mentioned that Pundrabardhana was a low country with moist, prosperous, fertile soil and jackfruit trees. Then Hiuen-Tsang came to Samatata ie present Jessore, Dhaka and Faridpur districts, where the land was low, and the climate was moist and full of trees and wild animals.
During the Mughal period, incentives were given to reclaim forest areas for agriculture. Babar in his diaries noted that Bengal Suba had 24 Sirkars including 5 in Orissa. Sir JN Sirkar made a table showing an approximate equivalence between the 16 Sirkars of Bengal Suba in Akbar's time and the Bengal districts of the last age of British rule.
Abul Fazal mentions presence of forests in Jannatabad, Khalifabad and Bazuha. In Khalifabad he mentions abundance of wild elephants; while in Bazuha thick long timbers suitable for masts. Jannatabad was grassy and full of wild buffaloes. The present sundarbans, according to the description, extended further north up to northern Nadia and northern Jessore, and as full of crocodiles and tigers.
The Mughal policy on forest was one of indifference. They used the forests mostly as game reserves for the purpose of sports. They were interested in trees from the gardening point of view, and also for avenue planting. In short, it may be said that they had an aesthetic and utilitarian outlook on plants, rather than any comprehensive policy on problems of forestry including its preservation, propagation, protection or improvement.
The end of the Mughal period was followed by the beginning of east india company and later the British rule. Initially, ie in the 18th century up to the middle of the 19th century, the forests were subjected to exploitation on a gigantic scale for ship building and railway sleeper production. There was no real attempt at forest preservation. The first attempt to protect the forests in India was taken in the southern part of India. On 3rd August 1855, Lord Dalhousie, Governor General of India, issued a memorandum where for the first time he proclaimed a plan for forest conservancy for the whole of India. According to Stabbing it may be called the 'Charter of the Indian Forests'. Brandis in 1856 was appointed as the Inspector General of Forests. A Forest Department was established during British Rule for the first time on 1st November, 1864.
Scientific Forest Management in India started under Brandis. He was assisted by Cleghora. In 1865 the Indian Forest Act was passed, and the Forest Service was organised in 1869. By 1870 the foundation of the Forest Department may be said to have been laid by Brandis. A regular forest service began to exist and definite progress in forestry started between 1871-1900. Forests were demarcated and in 1878 the Forest Act was revised (Act VII of 1878). Between 1871 and 1900, steps were taken to organise technical education and training of personnel to fill up the executive and controlling branches of the forest service. The first Forest School was opened in Dehradun, India in 1878. In 1906, lord curzon opened the Imperial Forest Research Institute at Dehradun.
In 1879, 4856 sq km (1875 sq miles) of Sundarbans were declared as Protected Forest and in 1893 Heinig prepared a working plan of the Sundarbans. In 1880 closure to shooting, hunting, and fishing was first applied. In 1867 Leeds joined as Conservator of Forests after the resignation of Anderson. In 1872 Schlich joined as Conservator of Forests. During his time the following 5 forest divisions were created: (i) Cooch Bihar Division- corresponding with the boundaries of Cooch Bihar Commissionership. (The Forest Officer was under a Conservator of Forests), (ii) Dacca Division (Sylhet and Cachar)- The Forest Officer was under the Conservator, (iii) Assam Division with the boundaries of Assam Commissionership. (Forest Officer was under a Commissioner but a Conservator of Forests could inspect and control accounts), (iv) Chittagong Division- corresponding with the Commissionership. The Commissioner was the conservator of forests. The Conservator of Forests of Bengal had no control but could be asked to give advice, and (v) Bhagalpore Division- comprising Patna, Chotanagpur, and Bhagalpore.
In 1925 EO Shebbare started systematic inquiry into private forests. Although Cox's Bazar Division was formed in 1919-20, Dhaka-Mymensingh Division was established in 1925-26. In 1927 the Bengal forests circle was divided into two circles (northern and southern). In the same year the Forest Act 1878 (Act VII of 1878) was revised and Forest Act 1927 became effective. Sundarbans, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Cox's Bazar, and Dhaka-Mymensingh formed the southern circle (now part of Bangladesh). The entire northern circle was in West Bengal, India. On the 15th August 1947, Bengal was partitioned into West Bengal and East Bengal (East Pakistan). The Forest Divisions belonging to the southern circle (Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts, Dacca-Mymensingh, and Sundarbans falling in Khulna district) became part of the East Bengal forests. Sylhet Division of Assam also became part of East Pakistan.
The forest administration of East Pakistan was reorganised. First into two, and then into three circles, namely, Eastern, Western, and Development circles. Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, Chittagong Hill Tracts and Sylhet constituted the Eastern Circle; Sundarbans, Dacca, and Mymensingh the Western Circle; and the Working Plan, and Utilization Divisions remained under the Development Circle. A school to train foresters was established at Sylhet.
In 1960, the post of Chief Conservator of Forests was created. A college for training Forest Rangers was also established in Chittagong. The Forest Research and Training of Superior Service Officers remained as a Central Government subject and was controlled from Rawalpindi (West Pakistan) by the Inspector General of Forests. Through a resolution, the government of Pakistan transferred the Forest Research Institute to the East Pakistan Government and provided funds to convert it into a full-fledged Forest Research Institute in East Pakistan.
The political changes followed by the creation of Bangladesh in 1971 led to a new forest policy. Efforts began in 1972 to implement the policy. 'Forestry for all' became the call, and more emphasis was placed to extend tree resources beyond the 'reserve forests' and steps adopted to plant trees in fallow, marginal lands, and in village groves. Measures to protect the biodiversity were also taken.
Remarkable changes have occurred in the administrative setup of Bangladesh forests since 1980. Social forestry has got more importance and districts with no or least forests have been brought under the canopy of social forestry. New forest divisions were created in Rangpur, Pabna, Bogra, Kushtia, and Faridpur. Two new circles at Bogra and Jessore were established. Similarly, in the Hill Tracts, forest divisions were created in Khagrachari, Bandarban, Kaptai and Rangamati to create plantations in the treeless unclassed state forests. Forest administration in the headquarters was also geared up and 3 posts of Deputy Chief Conservator of Forests were created to assist the Chief Conservator. Currently, there are seven circles and 31 divisions. The circles are headed by a conservator and the divisions by an officer in the rank of Deputy Conservator of Forests. In addition, full-time conservators are now appointed to National Botanical Garden, Forestry Development and Training Centre, Kaptai, and to Forest College, Chittagong. [Syed Salamat Ali]
Forest type Based on their ecological characters, the forests of Bangladesh can be divided into tropical wet evergreen, tropical semi-evergreen, tropical moist deciduous, tidal, and planted forests.
Tropical wet evergreen forest Evergreen plants dominate with rich biodiversity; few semi-evergreen and deciduous species also occur but do not change or alter the evergreen nature of the forests. They occur in hilly areas of Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT), Cox's Bazar in the SE, and Maulvi Bazar in the NE.
The top canopy trees reach a height of 45-62 m. Due to humidity, epiphytic orchids, ferns and fern allies, climbers, terrestrial ferns, mosses, aroids, and rattans are found as undergrowth in moist shady places. The shrubs, herbs and grasses are fewer in number.
About 700 species of flowering plants grow in this type of forest. Trees like kaligarjan, dhaligarjan, civit, dhup, kamdeb, raktan, narkeli, tali, chundul, dhaki jam are the common evergreen species which constitute the uppermost canopy. Champa, banshimul, chapalish, madar are some of the semi-deciduous and deciduous trees that grow sporadically. Pitraj, chalmoogra, dephal, nageswar, kao, jam, goda, dumur, koroi, dharmara, tejbhal, gamar, madanmasta, assar, moose, chatim, toon, bura, ashok, barmala, dakrum occupy the second storey. Sometimes Gnetum species and Podocarpus, two gymnosperms, are met with. Several species of bamboo are also found in these forests.
Tropical semi-evergreen forest Generally evergreen in character but deciduous plants also dominate. These forests range in the hilly regions of Sylhet through Chittagong, the Chittagong Hill Tracts, Cox’s Bazar, and also in some parts of Dinajpur district in the NW. Most of them are subjected to jhum (slash and burn) cultivation.
Over 800 species of flowering plants have been recorded in these forests. They have more undergrowth than evergreen forests. Top canopy trees reach a height of 25-57 m. In the valleys and moist slopes chapalish, telsur, chundul and narkeli constitute the top canopy; gutgutya, toon, pitraj, nageswar, uriam, nalizam, godajam, pitjam, dhakijam form the middle storey; and dephal and kechuan constitute the lower storey. On the hotter and dryer slopes and on ridges different species of garjan, banshimul, shimul, shil koroi, chundul, guja batna, kamdeb, bura gamari, bahera and moose form the upper storey; gab, udal and shibhadi form the middle storey and adalia, barmala, goda, ashoka, jalpai and darrum constitute the lower storey. The common deciduous species are garjan, simul, bansimul, batna, chapalish, toon, koroi and jalpai. The flora of these forests resembles those of eastern Himalayas in the north and Arakan in the south.
These forests collectively occupy about 6,40,000 ha of land and supply about 40% of the commercial timber of the country. Recent introduction of rubber plantation along with the previous exotic teak plantation is gradually changing the natural character of the forests.
Tropical moist deciduous forest Commonly known as sal forest, sal (Shorea robusta) being the dominant species. These forests are now distributed in Dhaka, Mymensingh, Dinajpur and Comilla regions. They constitute two distinct belts (covering about 107,000 ha of land); the larger one falls between the bhramaputra and the jamuna rivers with a length of about 80 km and a width of 7-20 km. This part is known as Madhupur Garh. The other smaller belt is situated at Sherpur district and lies along the foothills of the Garo Hills of India, having a length of about 60 km and width of 1.5-10 km. There are some smaller remnant patches of forest areas in Rangpur, Dinajpur, Thakurgaon, and Naogaon districts (covering about 14,000 ha) with some remainings in Shalvan Vihara, Mainamati and Rajeshpur in Comilla (about 200 ha).
Until the beginning of the 20th century, these forests existed as a continuous belt from Comilla to Darjeeling of India. At present, most of the forest area is under occupation and the present remaining stands of sal are of poor stocking and quality, consisting of degraded coppice and plantations. The present notified area of this forest is largely honeycombed with rice fields. The forest forms more or less a uniform canopy of 10-20 m, mostly with deciduous plants. Other than the sal (about 90%), the other common trees are palash, haldu, jarul or shidah (Lagerstroemia parviflora), bazna, hargoja, ajuli (Dillenia pentagyna), bhela, koroi, menda (Litsea monopetala), kushum, udhal, dephajam, bahera, kurchi, haritaki, pitraj, sheora, sonalu, assar, amlaki and adagash (Croton oblongifolius). Climbers (mostly woody) like kanchan lata, anigota, kumari lata, gajpipal, pani lata, Dioscorea species, satamuli, and gila occur in these forests. A good number of undergrowth is also recorded (about 250 species under 50 genera). The common ones are assam lata, bhat, boichi, moina kanta and ashal. The significant grass is sungrass. A few epiphytes are also recorded. Legumes, euphrobias and convolvulous plants also occur.
Tidal forest The most productive forest type in Bangladesh, they are situated in Khulna, Patuakhali, Noakhali and Chittagong regions along the coastal region, and constitute about 520,000 ha. The grounds of these forests are flooded every time at tide with seawater. The plants have pneumatophores, with viviparous germination, and are evergreen in nature. Other than sundari, passur, gewa, keora, kankra, baen, dhundul, amoor, and dakur grow gregariously. Turbidity and salinity of water in the coastal zones regulate the frequency and constituent feature of the species.
In addition to the Sundarbans, many small islands found in the mouth of Gangetic delta are densely covered with tidal forests, although the sundari tree is absent here. The pioneer plant in the forest quickly develops on creeks and mudbanks of streams where deposition of silt is in progress. Near the streams and canals, rhizophores (having stilt roots) are common.
There are certain forests localized to a particular habitat conditions. These are actually secondary formations. They include: (i) The beach or littoral forest- occurs along the sea beaches of Cox's Bazar, Chittagong, Barisal and Patuakhali regions, adjoining to tidal forests. Jhau, kerung, ponyal, kathbadam, madar, paras and nishinda are occasionally associated and form different shades of thickets. (ii) Fresh water swamp forest- occurs in low-lying haor (large water bodies) areas in Sylhet and Sunamganj and also in depressions within the hill forest area.
The area is subjected to flooding during rainy season and the soil is very moist. In Sylhet area, the swamp forest is covered with grasses like ekhra, kaghra, and nal. Along the bank of haor areas hijal trees often form a pure stand. Undergrowth in these forests is mainly cane, lantana and many large grasses and sedges. Tree species associated with savanna are koroi, shimul, kalhuza (Cordia dichotoma), bhatkur (Vitex heterophylla), and jarul. The common undergrowth are tara (Alpinia), costus, murta, melastoma, and nal. Other than these specialized forests, there are some localized forests with distinctive floristic composition found along the streams of hilly regions, locally known as charas. The trees that are commonly found along this areas are chalet, pitaly, kanjal (Bischofia javanica), jarul, ashoka, bhubi (Baccaurea ramiflora), jalpai, shera and dunus. Many epiphytes and ferns, and also mosses are frequently found in the composition.
In the clear felled areas of the hill forests, the pioneer plants that appear in the new plantation area are fishtail palm, bura (Macaranga species), barmala (Callicarpa arborea), chima (Hibiscus macrophyllus), goda (Vitex peduncularis), jiban (Trema orientalis), nunkochi (Glochidion species), amlaki, kurchi, elena (Antidesma), kodom, depha jam (Cleistocalyx operculata), koroi, udal, bazna, kanta koshoi, toon, bhadi, gutgutya (Proteium serratum), bata, hargaja, and various types of grasses. Some distinct types of forests also develop due to gradual elimination of natural primary forests, and may be termed as scrap jungle of the savannah type (about 750,000 ha). These secondary forests are often burnt to raise sungrass.
Plantation forest These are raised forests and are grouped into two categories: Planted state forest- Initial attempts to raise plantation forests started in 1871 with teak at Kaptai in the CHT using seeds from Myanmar. Since then plantation forestry has become a part of the overall clearfelling silviculture system. Until 1920 it remained confined to the CHT. Then it was extended to Chittagong and Sylhet divisions. The plantation rate per year was about 400 ha. After teak, the other common introduced plant species are gamar, chapalish, garjan, mahagoni, jarul, toon, painkado and jam. In the 1950s and 1960s wide plantation programmes were undertaken. In 1974, the Forest Department started planting fast growing species like gamar, Albizia falcata, kadam, Acacia species, Eucalyptus species and pine on a large scale to produce fuelwood. Planted private forest- Traditionally homesteads grow trees and many other crops in an effective way. Now this forest type is developing at a faster rate compared to the rate of deforestation of state forests. About 160 species are known to occur in homestead forests. This forest has been proved to be highly productive. [Mostafa Kamal Pasha]
Forest distribution The total forest area in Bangladesh including unclassed state forest land is about 2.25 million ha. A large part of the area, however, has no tree cover. Over the last three decades forest cover declined by 2.1 percent annually. Village groves or village forests play a very important role in the economy of the country. These provide a significant portion of the wood and firewood supply of the country. Besides wood production, village forests have several important uses. They provide fruit, fodder, fuel, raw material for small and cottage industries, house construction materials, agricultural implements, cart wheel, etc. The area covered by village groves or forest is estimated to be about 0.27 million ha. This is not forest as per definition. However, in the Bangladesh context this tree cover is very significant in many ways.
Table Status of the state-owned forest land (in ha).
|Forest type||Reserve forest||Protected forest||Vested forest||Acquired forest||BWDB and khas||Unclassed state forest||Total|
Tea garden is another category which needs mention. A good quantity of tree resources are available within the tea garden. The tree cover areas of tea gardens are fast depleting. Approximately 2800 ha are available under this kind of tree cover, and distributed in Chittagong, Sylhet and Rangamati.
A third category of forest which is fast emerging are the plantations on non-forest public land, such as road side, railway embankment, and canal banks. This marginal land plantations in one way are substituting for the decreasing village forests, and are adding a new dimension to fallow land utilization.
The state owned forests (see table) of Bangladesh are distributed in three zones: a) Hill forests in the greater districts of Chittagong, Chittagong Hill Tracts, and Sylhet; b) Inland forests in the central and northern zones; and c) Littoral forests in the delta and coastal regions.
The table on state on forests, however, does not in anyway imply that the land is under actual control of the Forest Department. Much of the land is under the occupation of encroachers. The encroachment is quite high in the inland sal forests. Observations since 1985 indicate that encroachment and shifting cultivation is on an increase in the Chittagong Hill Tracts.
The hill forests occupy more than half of the forests of the country. These forests are important from economic and environment perspectives. The description given below mostly applies to the forests of greater Chittagong Hill Tracts and Chittagong. The forests of Sylhet are extension of the forests of Chittagong Hill Tracts and Chittagong.
The major hill reserve forests are Kassalong (including Maini Head Water Reserve), Rhankhiang, Sitapahar, Sangu, Mata Muhuri, Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, and Sylhet reserve forests. Sitapahar was the first forest reserve in the hills and was declared as such in 1875. About the time government appointed professionals to manage forests. During the first decade of the last century, survey and demarcation of most of the forest areas took place. Forest department started tree plantations at Sitapahar in 1871. Thereafter teak plantation continued on a regular basis. The clear felling with artificial planting programme which was introduced to Sitaphar extended to Kassalang and Rankhiang reserves. In the mid-sixties the Forest Industries Development Corporation was established to conduct mechanical extractions and up to 1000 ha of forests of Kassalang and Rankhiang plantations, mainly of teak were raised. The political instability of the late sixties and tribal insurgency affected the management of the forests. Much of the upper Rankhiang and Thega reserves were encroached. A moderate area of 5,037 ha of plantations were raised in the Matamuhuri reserves.
The Chittagong Hill Tracts contains over 700 thousand ha Unclassed State Forests (USF), which are subject to shifting cultivation. A part of USF spreading over Bandarban, Khagrachari, and Lama has been taken over by Forest Department and plantations have been raised there. Up to 1990, about 48,000 ha of plantations of teak and other species have been raised.
Inventory of Chittagong and Cox's Bazar was made in 1987. Out of 52,471 ha of natural forest area about 38% was found to have small crown secondary disturbed high forest; 13% good quality large crown forests, 1% Garjan cover, and remaining 48% brush with scattered trees. In the inventory it was further seen that only 17,862 ha of plantations out of 38,852 ha of plantations was raised ie approximately 21,000 ha of the plantation area was lost. The loss is attributed to encroachment, illicit removal, and the ravages of the World War II (1941-45) and 1971 liberation war.
In Cox's Bazar out of 24,438 ha of natural forests, 57% consists of small crowned secondary disturbed forests, 42% relatively good quality forests and the remainder are all disturbed forests. The high proportion of secondary forest is a result of large scale selective harvesting during the war periods. It was also revealed that out of 38,000 ha of plantations raised in the division only 24,210 ha survived (1991), ie, approximately 30% of the plantations are poorly stocked. Due to recent mass migration of Rohingyas from adjacent Myanmar and their camping in the forests of Cox's Bazar, the condition has further deteriorated.
Sylhet forest areas were part of Assam prior to 1947. Not much of early records about the forest is available; the inventory, however, shows that in Sylhet 13,802 ha of plantations exist.
Inland sal forest The sal forests are presently distributed in the districts of Dhaka, Tangail, Mymensingh and Dinajpur. Rangpur, Rajshahi and Comilla have little denuded scattered areas of forests. In the past quite a vast area of Mymensingh, Tangail and Dhaka was occupied by sal forests. The inland sal forests were under private ownership till 1950. The forest of the central zone of Bhawal in Gazipur district, and Atia in Tangail have, however, been under partial management of Forest Department under an agreement with the owner. Until 1917, the owner managed all the forests. The first management plan for Bhawal forests appeared in 1917 and for Atia forests in 1934. After partition in 1947, forest department divided these forests into two working circles. One was timber and conversion working circle where clear felling followed artificial plantation, keeping the rotation to 70-80 years, and the second was coppice working circle, keeping the rotation to 25 years.
Table Present distribution and area (ha) of different forest types under different forest divisions
|Forest type||Reserved forest||Acquired forest||Protected forest||Vested forest||Unclassed state forest||Khas||Total|
|Dhaka Extn (south)||--||--||--||9||--||--||9|
|Botanical garden, Dhaka||--||86||--||--||--||--||86|
Abbreviations CHT-Chittagong Hill Tracts, USF- Unclassed State Forest, Extn-Extension, CA-Coastal Afforestation includes Matamuhuri Reserve. Source Forestry Master Plan (Forest Management).
Before 1959, the forest areas of Dinajpur, Rangpur and Rajshahi remained under the control of proprietors. Since there was indiscriminate felling, the Forest Department prepared a management plan in this year. The plan prescribed three working circles: conversion, coppice and afforestation. In 1976 the plan was revised to create two working circles: community forestry working circle, and commercial working circle. The plan did not work and 65% of the forest is now highly degraded or encroached.
The littoral mangrove forests There are two tracts of littoral forests. The smaller one is the chakaria sundarbans. It lies in the delta of the matamuhari river in Cox's Bazar district. It was declared as Reserved Forest in the later part of the last century. Though management plan for the area existed since 1911, demand for forest produce and fish culture led to illegal removal and artificial inundation of the forest. Bangladesh government transferred about 3,233 ha of forests to shrimp cultivation. Uncontrolled shrimp cultivation and establishment of seasonal salt beds cleared the remaining forests.
Sundarbans in the delta of the Ganges and Brahmaputra stretches from the Hughly river to the Rabnabad island, and extends inland, in places, as far as 160 km. Two-thirds of the forest area is within Bangladesh. In the Eighteenth Century, forests were double their present size. Uncontrolled deforestation and settlement of land led to reduction of forest size, and the the Sundarbans was declared as a Reserve Forest in 1875. In area (about 557285 ha) though Sundarbans remain intact, crops have deteriorated substantially due to increase in salinity, top dying of Sundri, and tectonic movement. Through its own initiative, the Forest Department has started a coastal afforestation programme in the early sixties to create a protective belt in the coastal offshore and in the islands having no tree cover. A substantial extent of plantations in the coastal regions have been raised and mini-littoral forests now exist in the coastal belts. [Syed Salamat Ali]
Forest resource In terms of forest land, the Chittagong Hill Tracts forest division on the southeastern border of the country contributes about 47%, followed by the Sundarbans and Patuakhali coastal divisions, about 27%. The northwestern region, including Dinajpur, Bogra, Rajshahi and Rangpur districts, has less than one percent state forestland. The western region, ie Jessore, Kushtia, Faridpur and Barisal, has slightly more than one percent. And yet after the agriculture sector, forestry is one of the major economic activities, contributing to about 3% GDP of the country.
At least about 1,000 species of forest plants are economically important; of these about 400 are considered as tree species and about 450 as medicinally important. About 50 tree species and about 100 shrubs and herbs are viewed as commercially important. Bangladesh Forestry sector consists mainly of the primary production of forest products. Except pulp, paper and board mills, the secondary sector is weakly developed and undercapitalized. Logs and bamboo, the two main industrial raw materials, come mostly from private lands; and also from Government managed forestlands. Official records show that Government forest land produces about 5,50,000 m3 of roundwood and about 65 million pieces of bamboo annually. In 1997, the value of the forestry sector has been estimated at Taka 21 billion (US $ 537 million), 80% of which comes from primary, 11% from secondary round wood processing, and 3% from non-wood products. Saw-log production is of the largest single value, making up to 42% (Tk 9 billion), while fuelwood production contributes 27% (Tk. 5.8 billion). Bamboo production is at 13% (Tk 2.9 billion). Solid wood processing, principally saw milling, adds about 6%, and pulps and paper production just over 4% of added value. Tertiary wood manufacturing production, mainly furniture and cabinet making, is responsible for about 1%. Estimated total present employment is about 8,00,000 persons. However, considering the seasonal nature of work, people benefiting directly from forestry related works would be about 1.3 million. Fuelwood, after solid wood, is the next important forest resource. Of total forest products, about 65% are consumed as fuelwood. In 1995, total regulated supply was 6.5 million m3 against the demand of 8.27 million m3.
Hill forests are treasure-houses of forest resources. These forests are classified as subtropical evergreen forests, semi-evergreen forests and bamboo forests. The most abundant but important timber trees are garjan, teak, chapalish, gamar, telsur, jam, jarul, civit, raktan, champa, narkeli, teli, chundul, chikrassia and koroi.
The next important natural forest resources are the Sunderbans forests. Government management of these forests began in the 1870's under the system of select felling and natural regeneration. Subsequently, in the 1930's a system of clear felling by plantation appeared. During the Second World War, these forests were exploited on a large scale and the practice continued after independence in 1947 to meet the rising demand of forest products. Then management practice was raised for long (40 years) and short (20 years) rotation cycles. Following the establishment of Khulna Newsprint Mills in 1959 and many other Khulna based forest industries, the forest management intensity increased. Logs, timber, fuelwood and golpata leaves are major produces of the forests, and are mostly collected on the basis of collection permits.
At present, Sal forests are largely composed of two remnant tracts. One of them is some 105,000 ha in the districts of Tangail and Mymensingh. The second, one is the Barind tract, covering scattered patches of some 14,000 ha in the northwest districts. Unlike other areas under the control of the Forest Department, these areas were not put under Government management for a long period, since they were nationalised in the 1950s. The present notified Sal forests area is actually honey-combed with habitations and rice fields. These forests mainly supply sal timber and logs along with many other soft wood and firewood.
Bamboo is the most important non-wood forest resource in Bangladesh. Some 10 species occur naturally in forest, which account for about 20% of the national stock. Muli (Melocanna baccifera) is the most prominent. Forests of Chittagong and the Chittagong Hill Tracts are the richest sources of bamboo, followed by the Sylhet hill forests. The rest come from village groves distributed throughout the country.
Non-wood forest resources as a group, apart from their economic value, represent the bulk of diversity in natural forests. The situation with regard to the management of non-wood forest products in the natural forests is far from satisfactory. Hundreds of items are exploited daily from the forests by local inhabitants. Of the thatching and weaving resources, sungrass is used extensively in rural areas. The production of sungrass is about 2 million bundles. It grows abundantly in the denuded and Savannah forests, mostly those in the eastern hilly forests. Leaf of golpata (Nypa fruticans) of the Sundarbans is an important thatching material in the southern districts. The annual production is about 70,000 m tons. Rattan, an important resource of hill forests, is also cultivated as a homestead plant, and is used for making furniture, baskets, and a number of fancy articles; the harvest rate being 1,00,000 running metres.
Murta, a reed plant, is used for making sleeping mats, bags, baskets and many utility items. It grows in both natural and homestead forests. Nowadays, inflorescence of a grass, named phuljharu (Thesalonaena maxima) used to make brooms is an economic material of hill forests. About 500 species of plants having medicinal properties occur in the forests of Bangladesh. Depending on the phytochemical contents, different parts are collected and used in preparations of indigenous and folk medical formulations. There are about 500 Unani and Aurvedic medicine preparing units in Bangladesh. Current supply of plant materials for indigenous medicine is about 800 m tons.
Mangrove forests of Bangladesh are a home of estuarine fishes, shrimps and crabs. Some 10,000 m tons of fish is collected from the Sundarbans area annually. Honey collectors collect honey and bee-wax from this forest. Annual honey collection from the Sundarbans alone is about 150 m tons. [Mostafa Kamal Pasha]
Forest product Considering forest habitats, forest products are of two types: (i) Land forest products; and (ii) Littoral forest products. These can further be categorised as non-timber, and timber forest products.
Among the various uses of the forest products mention may be made about the following:
House construction and building materials Both sawn wood and round timber as well as bamboo are used. Assuming the economic life of the house to be 25 years, the consumption per capita/annum is 0.0068 m3 for building construction.
Furniture and fixtures Numerous items are included in the furniture and fixture categories. The adjusted weight average is 0.0664 m3 per capita for the life of the furniture. Per capita consumption is 0.0026 m3/annum when the economic life of the furniture is considered to be 25 years.
Transport equipment Wood is the main component for making almost all rural transports including bullock cart, buffalo cart, boat, rickshaw, carriage van, hackney carriage, palanquin (Palki), and duli. Wood has also been used for making modern mechanized transports like bus, truck, launch and ship. The adjusted weight average is 0.00721 m3 per capita. Considering the economic life of the transport equipment to be 20 years, the annual per capita consumption is 0.00036 m3.
Agricultural implements Traditional agricultural implements include various equipment and tools which are made from wood. The adjusted weight average is 0.0276 m3. Assuming the economic life of agricultural implements to be 20 years, per capita consumption is 0.0014 m3/annum.
Pulp, paper and newsprint Among forest based industries, pulp, newsprint and paper manufacturing occupy dominant positions. There are three paper mills: the Karnafuli Paper Mill (KPM), North Bengal Paper Mill (NBPM) and Sonali Paper and Board Mills Limited. All these mills manufacture industrial grade papers and paperboard. There is only one newsprint mill located at Khulna. Except NBPM, all paper mills consume wood and/or bamboo pulp for their production.
Wood-based panel products These include a wide variety of semi-finished and intermediate wood-products like hard board, particle board, plain wood text, veneer board, plywood tea chests, flash doors, windows, etc made by using wood (and wood by-product such as saw dust). Both private and public sector enterprises are engaged in the production of panel products. Annual average requirement of saw-log in these units is about 97 thousand m3.
Fuel and firewood More than 80% of the total fuel and firewood are procured from forests. Of the total fuel wood, nearly 85% is used in rural areas and 15% in urban areas. Besides fuel wood, almost all firewood are used for small industries like brick fields. The estimated national demand for fuel wood is about 7975.49 thousand m3.
Rubber products Rubber is a monotype forest product. Bangladesh has a good number of rubber gardens in Chittagong, Sylhet and Madhupur areas. The production of Rubber in Bangladesh was 2966.58 and 3101.21 thousand kg in 1997-98 and 1998-99 respectively.
Other miscellaneous wood and forest products Among miscellaneous wood products, match manufacturing occupies a prominent place. Other major items include pencil, slate and scale production, toy manufacturing, electrical and telephone poles, textile and jute mill spares and accessories, etc. In addition, some handicraft items are manufactured from some forest-based small industries. Golpata (Nypa fruticans), collected from the Sundarbans, is used for roofing.
Non-timber forest product Many small industries, private and government handicrafts and cottage industries are based on non-timber forest materials. Many of the products are exported to different countries. A good number of craftsmen are employed in these industries. Some of the most important non-timber plants and plant-products include bamboo (for making houses, furniture and souvenir items), rattan or cane (for making furniture and luxury souvenir items), sungrass (for house roofing/thatching), pati pata and hogla (for floor mats), nipa palm or golpata (for thatching and roofing), forest honey (mainly from the Sundarbans), Gewa (raw materials of Khulna Paper Mill for producing newsprint), and medicinal plants (eg Amlaki, Bohera, Horitaki, Swarpagandha, Kurchi, Arjun, Basok, Swatamuli, Akanda, Dumur, Ulat-chandal, Anantamul, Tulshi, Nisindha etc). [Md. Mahfuzur Rahman]
See also timber tree.
Forest management No scientific attempt was made anywhere in the subcontinent to conserve the forests before the advent of British rule. Even in the early days of British rule, there was much wasteful exploitation of forests to meet the requirements of the people. In 1862, on his way to Delhi from Burma (Myanmar), Brandis inspected a part of the forests of Bengal and made a note of the state of the forests resources of this region. This marked the beginning of forest management of Bangladesh. In 1864, Anderson, Superintendent of Calcutta Botanical Garden, was appointed as the First Conservator of Forests of the Lower Provinces of Bengal and Assam (now a part of it is in Bangladesh). Preliminary investigations and enquiries started by him led to the reservation of forest areas. In 1871, about 14,685 sq km of hill forests were declared Government forests. In 1875, the first forest reserves were declared. The first forest reserves were in Sitapahar (currently under Chittagong Hill Tracts South Division) and in the Sundarbans.
The first management plan in Bengal was prepared for the Sundarbans (tidal forests) in 1892. A management plan for Hill forests was prepared at the beginning of the 20th century. The management plan of sal forests was prepared much later.
With the partition of India in 1947, eastern and northeastern part of hill forests and unclassed state forests of Bengal, some parts of Assam, plainland sal forests, and most of the Sundarbans forests fell within East Pakistan. Plantation of valuable species and extraction of timber were the main stay of management practices. Forest Industries Development Corporation was set up in the early sixties in an effort to extract timber from the most inaccessible areas. The target of plantations was raised from a few hundred hectares to 4,000 hectares in the mid-sixties. A number of economic crops like rubber, cashewnut etc, were also introduced. In the late sixties, coastal plantations were also started in the new accretions of the bay of bengal. The National Forest Policy of Bangladesh was formulated in 1979.
Forest management situation The Hill Forests are managed under the clear felling system followed by artificial regeneration with valuable species with a rotation of 60 years (long rotation) and 30 years (short rotation). The bamboo appears either as pure stand or as understorey.
The inland sal forests are managed under coppice system with a rotation of 25 years. Areas where Sal (Shorea robusta) trees are comparatively fewer are managed under clear felling system followed by artificial regeneration mostly with Sal and other suitable species.
The tidal forests are managed under selection system followed by natural regeneration with a felling cycle of 20 years. Afforestation of coastal lands, offshore islands and new formations has been undertaken in the last three decades with mangrove and other suitable species.
Forest management planning Hill forests- (i) to convert the existing irregular forests into regular ones replacing non-economic trees by valuable and fast-growing species; (ii) to prevent denudation in the hills and erosion of the soil and silting up of rivers; (iii) to afforest barren areas with a view to increasing the forest wealth; (iv) to preserve and propagate wildlife; and (v) to derive maximum economic benefits under the principles of sustained yield in practice.
Tidal forests- (i) maintenance of the forest stand and its gradual conversion into regular selection forests with a balanced distribution of age classes; (ii) to afforest newly accreted lands in an effort to reclaim land; and (iii) to maintain a sustained supply of timber, firewood, pulpwood, thatching materials, and other minor forest produces for local people and existing industries.
Inland sal forests- (i) to bring scientific management and gradual conversion of the irregular forest into a series of age classes; (ii) to supply large sized house posts and firewood; and (iii) to create recreational facilities. [Syed Salamat Ali]
Forest policies and acts During the Mughal period (1203-1538), forests were leased out by the local kings. Systematic management of forests started in the 1860s after the establishment of a Forest Department in the Province of Bengal. To regulate activities within forests, rules and regulations have been formulated, amended, modified and improved upon over the years. These rules and regulations are formulated on the basis of long-existing acts and policies.
Policy The National Forest Policy of 1894 provides the basic guidelines for the formulation of acts and rules for the management of forests in the country. The earliest attempt to enunciate the need of conserving forest resources was made in 1855 by the government of British India through the promulgation of the Charter of Indian Forests. Prior to this charter there were only scanty regulations regarding the felling of trees for revenue. The first formal Forest Policy that was declared in 1894 included the following features: (1) State forests are to be administered for public benefit at large, through regulations of rights and privileges of the people near the forest. (2) Forests were categorized as (a) Hill forests/Protection forests, (b) Economically important/Production forests, (c) Minor forests, and (d) Pastureland. (3) Forests situated on hill slopes should be conserved to protect the cultivated plains situated downstream. (4) Valuable forests should be managed to yield state revenue. (5) Land suitable for cultivation within the forest should be made available for cultivation, provided that such conversions did not harm forests and were permanent in nature. (6) Local population should be allowed to exercise grazing rights in low yielding forests.
After the partition of India in 1947, the policy was not relevant for the new state of Pakistan which inherited forest cover for less than 2% of its territory. The existing policy neither contemplated the increase of forest area nor emphasized sustained harvest from existing forests. Furthermore, it excluded private forests from its ambit. These deficiencies were recognized in the Pakistan Forestry Conference held in 1949. The conference guidelines provided improvement upon the Policy Statement of 1894 and a new Forest Policy was announced in 1955.
The Forest Policy of 1955 was further revised and the Forest Policy of 1962 was introduced. The Forest Policy of 1955 and 1962 laid emphasis on the exploitation of forest produce, particularly from East Pakistan. The policies did not help the development of forestry in Bangladesh and were not very favourable for all round growth of forestry. In addition, increase in population and increased demand for food and other essentials resulted in heavy pressure on forestland, leading to ecological degradation. Even though Bangladesh became independent in 1971, its National Forest Policy was not announced until 1979.
The policy statement of 1979 is very general and vague. Most of the crucial aspects such as functional classification and use of forest land, role of forest as the ecological foundation of sustainable biological productivity, community participation in forestry, etc did not get any mention in the policy statement. Consequently, the government decided to amend the Forest Policy of 1979. The amended Forest Policy, known as Forest Policy, 1994, was approved by the government on 31 May 1995. Following were taken into consideration while revising the forest policy: the clauses of public utility as mentioned in the constitution; the role of forests in the socio-economic development of the country, including the environment; adoption of national policy regarding agriculture, industry, cottage industry and other sectors; and the treaties, protocols and conventions related to environment and forests.
In the early 1990s, a 20-year Forestry Sector Master Plan (FSMP, 1993-2012) was developed, which aims to bring 20% of the country's land area under tree cover. It has three major investment programs: (a) forest production and management; (b) wood-based industries; and (c) participatory forestry. Of the two scenarios in the FSMP, the High Development Scenario envisages an investment of about US $2 billion in the forestry sector.
The latest Forest Policy (1994) viewed equitable distribution of benefits among the people, especially those whose livelihood depend on trees and forests; and people's participation in afforestation programmes and incorporation of people's opinions and suggestions in the planning and decision-making process. The people-centred objectives of the policy are: creation of rural employment opportunities and expansion of forest-based rural development sectors; and prevention of illegal occupation of forest lands and other forest offences through people's participation. The policy statements envisage: massive afforestation on marginal public lands through partnerships with local people and NGOs; afforestation of denuded/encroached reserved forests with an agroforestry model through participation of people and NGOs; giving ownership of a certain amount of land to the tribal people through forest settlement processes; strengthening of the Forest Department and creation of a new Department of Social Forestry; strengthening of educational, training and research facilities; and amendment of laws, rules and regulations relating to the forestry sector and if necessary, promulgation of new laws and rules. Thus, over time the policy has shifted somewhat from total state control to a management regime involving local communities in specific categories of forests.
Acts Forest legislation in Bangladesh dates back to 1865, when the first Indian Forest Act was enacted. It provided for protection of tree, prevention of fires, prohibition of cultivation, and grazing in forest areas. Until a comprehensive Indian Forest Act was formulated in 1927, several acts and amendments covering forest administration in British India were enacted and were as follows: (a) Indian Forest Act, 1873; (b) Forest Act, 1890; (c) Amending Act, 1891; (d) Indian Forest (Amendment) Act, 1901; (e) Indian Forest (Amendment) Act, 1911; (f) Repealing and Amending Act, 1914; (g) Indian Forest Amendment Act, 1918; and (h) Devolution Act, 1920.
The Forest Act of 1927, as amended with its related rules and regulations, is still the basic law governing forests in Bangladesh. The emphasis of the Act is on the protection of reserved forest. Some important features of the Act are: (i) Under the purview of the Forest Act, all rights or claims over forestlands have been settled at the time of the reservation. The Act prohibits the grant of any new rights of any kind to individuals or communities; (ii) Any activity within the forest reserves is prohibited, unless permitted by the Forest Department; (iii) Most of the violations may result in court cases where the minimum fine is Taka 2,000 and/or two month's rigorous imprisonment; and (iv) The Act empowers the Forest Department to regulate the use of water-courses within Reserve Forests.
An amendment of the Forest Act of 1927 was drafted in 1987 and approved in 1989, as the Forest (Amendment) Ordinance 1989. The Forest Act was further amended in 2000 and renamed as the Forest (Amendment) Act, 2000. Under this amendment some major changes have been brought in the Act.
For assuming control of private forests and wastelands by the government in the interest of conservation, the Bengal Private Forest Act, 1945 was passed; but partition of India in 1947 intervened and the Act could not be put into effect. After partition, in 1949, East Pakistan reenacted the provisions of the Bengal Private Forest Act. This was passed in 1959 as The East Pakistan Private Forest Ordinance. The private forest and wastelands taken over by the government were to be managed as a distinct legal category, ie, vested forests. The ordinance had 64 clauses and detailed provisions for the management and protection of vested forests. Vested forests were taken over by the government from their private owners for a period of one hundred years for the purpose of conservation and afforestation, since they were not being cultivated properly by their owners. [Syed Salamat Ali and Mizan R Khan]
Degradation: forest resources Degradation of forests and their resources have been occurring due to manifold reasons. Among others, principal causes of forest destruction include uncontrolled deforestation, new settlements, illegal wood cutting and felling, leaf-litter collection, dependency on forests for fuel wood, grazing and browsing, intentional forest burning, 'Jhum' or shifting cultivation, conversion of forest lands into agricultural land, overexploitation of particular economically important species such as medicinal, fodder, dye, etc, indiscriminate use of forest wood in brick fields and in other small industries, and total clearing of undergrowth and excess consumption of forest materials for domestic purposes. In addition, heavy rainfall, occasional landslide, erosion, flood, cyclone and tornado, increase of salinity, and some diseases (eg top dying disease in the Sundarbans) are also major causes for forest lands and forest resources degradation.
Moreover, lack of proper management and awareness, inadequate research and developmental programme on habitat and resource and regeneration, restoration and conservation are also some additional reasons for the degradation of forest resources in Bangladesh. Sometimes the rate and pattern of forest degradation vary with the type of forests and their geographical location.
For example, sal forests of Bangladesh are located in the middle and northern part of the country, which are topographically almost plain lands, and dry in nature. Owing to geographical position and edaphic conditions, the scope and the rate of degradation in sal forests are higher due to easy encroachment and illegal settlements. [Md. Mahfuzur Rahman]
Pests and diseases of forest trees Pests Larva of the moth, Agrotis ipsilon, known as cutworm, commonly feeds on seedlings of a number of forest plants. They hide in burrows 3-8 cm deep in the soil during the day and come out to the surface at night. The stems of young seedlings are cut down at ground level but occasionally buds or new leaves are also cut.
Cockchafer or white grubs of the beetles Leucopholis, Holotrichia, and Anomala sometimes cause serious damage to seedlings of teak, rubber, babul, jarul, minjiri, etc. The larva feeds on small roots and sometimes cut tap root at 5-10 cm below the soil surface. The infested seedling wilts and ultimately dries up. The adult feeds on the foliage of many trees.
Some termites, including species of Odontotermes and Microcerotermes attack young seedlings, saplings, implants or cuttings in nurseries and plantations of many forest trees. Termite attack occurs below the ground level in the upper 20 cm of the soil layer. Usually the bark of the tap root is completely eaten up. The affected seedlings/young plants show signs of wilting, resulting in death.
Teak is attacked by two major lepidopteran defoliators. These are Hyblaea puera and Eutectona machaeralis. The mature larvae of the former consume the entire leaf, leaving only the mid-ribs and major veins. On the other hand, the larvae of E. machaeralis consume only the green layer of leaf leaving all the veins intact, thereby skeletonising the leaf which later turns brown and dries up.
The young larvae of gamar defoliator, Calopepla leayana (Chrysomelidae: Coleoptera) feed mainly on the undersurface of gamar (Gmelina arborea) leaves, leaving only the mid-ribs and main veins intact. The adult beetle feeds on the leaf, cutting large circular holes, and also eats young buds and shoots. Mahogany shoot borer, Hypsipyla robusta (Pyralidae: Lepidoptera) is an important pest of mahogany, toon (Toona ciliala) and chickrassy (Chukussia tabularis). The larva bores into the shoots of the young trees.
Widespread mortality of Babla (Acacia species) is caused by the scale insect, Anomalococcus indicus (Homoptera). The insect sucks sap from the tender shoots and branches. In case of heavy infestation, the shoot is completely encrusted with the scale insect. The attack is more severe during November-April.
The larva of Ommatolapus haemorrhoidalis (Curculionidae: Coleoptera), commonly known as cane top shoot borer, bores into the growing shoot of cane. The larva makes a central tunnel inside the shoot to feed on the soft internal tissue.
Koroi (Albizia species) is frequently attacked by two major defoliators, Eurema blanda and E. hecabe. The young caterpillars nibble leaflets and as they grow older, they start eating entire leaflets, leaving behind only the mid-ribs. In severe attacks the plants are completely defoliated. Young plants are mostly preferred, but older trees are not spared.
Diseases Dieback of keora is a serious disease of keora seedlings. The first symptom appears as a rot from the tip, middle, or lower tender portion of the stem. Affected seedlings decay out from the top. The disease is caused by the fungus, Chaetomella raphigera.
Bamboo blight disease often causes severe mortality of young bamboo culm. It has been observed in the country for the last two decades, and is most prevalent in greater Rajshahi, Chittagong, Comilla and Sylhet districts in decreasing order of occurrence. Bambusa balcooa and B. vulgaris are the most affected bamboo species of Bangladesh. The causal fungus has been identified as Sarocladium oryzae.
Over the last few decades, a root rot causing dieback of Lohakat (Xylia oxlocarpa) has been observed in some plantations in and around Lawachara of Maulvi Bazar district. The first symptom is the appearance of pale green colour of the foliage of one or more major branches. Later, the foliage becomes yellow, and eventually falls off.
Recently a disease, called pink disease, caused by Corticium salmonicolor, has been recorded on Eucalyptus in some plantations of Chittagong, Cox's Bazar, and Sylhet Forest Divisions. The most striking feature of the disease is the mortality of the major branches accompanied by leaf cast due to invasion of the pathogen, which in severe cases may spread to the crown. The first symptom appears as an exudation of gum on the stem or branches, followed by a growth of white silky threads on the surface of bark. [M Wahed Baksha]
Forest Department a Department of the Ministry of Environment and Forest, and is headquartered at Mohakhali, Dhaka. A Chief Conservator of Forests, assisted by three Deputy Chief Conservators, heads the agency. It is responsible for forest development and management planning and forest extension. The Department has a number of institutes under its administration and supervision and these include a Forest Research Institute and a Forest College at Chittagong, a Forest Development and Training Institute at Kaptai, and two Forest Schools, one at Sylhet and the other at Rajshahi. The National Botanical Garden located at Mirpur, Dhaka is also under the administration of the Department and this Garden as well as the Rajshahi Forest School has tissue culture laboratories. Besides, the Department implements a good number of projects and some of such projects being implemented from 1990s are the Forest Resource Development Project, Forestry Sector Project, Coastal Green Belt Project and Conservation of Biodiversity in the Sundarbans Project.
The field operations of the Department are managed through six Circles and each Circle has several forest divisions, the total number of which is 37 in the whole country. The divisions are divided into several forest ranges controlled by Forest Range Officers, under whom there are Beats under the charge of Beat Officers of the rank of Forester/ Deputy Rangers. The Forest Department has introduced social forestry activities by involving people to rehabilitate degraded forestland as well as marginal land. These activities include woodlot/block plantation, agroforestry plantation, strip plantation, rehabilitation of jhumias (tribal people living on shifting cultivation), village afforestation, seedling distribution, nursery development and training.
The Department has adopted a Resource Information Management System (RIMS) that helps significantly in forest development planning and monitoring of all regular and project activities. Integrated with the Geographical Information Systems, the RIMS has become an important arm of the Forest Department as a coordinated centre for data and information on forest resources and their management in Bangladesh. The total number of employees working in the Forest Department is about 7300 and besides, the Department employs a large number of labourers on a casual basis for its field activities. [M Ghulam Habib]
Forest education and research Formal education and training for personnel working in forest services were not available in this subcontinent until 1870s. From 1878, the Government of British India started training programme of the recruited foresters to provide skilled technical manpower in respective forest territory.
A forest policy was adopted in 1894, after about 30 years of establishing the Forest Department in undivided India. The subject forestry as science thus started developing slowly and gradually in the sub-continent for the purpose of exploitation of the vast forest resources by the British Government. With such a background and interest the British Government felt the need of promoting Forest Education and initiating research facilities in this part of the country. During 1926 to 1932, the gazetted officers of the Indian Forest Service received training at Dehra Dun. In 1937 with the provincialisation of the forest services, gazetted officers started getting training since 1938 for provincial forest services.
After creation of Pakistan, a forest college was established in Peshawar, West Pakistan to train gazetted and non-gezatted forest officers recruited by the Public Service Commission.
A Forest College was established at Solasahar in Chittagong for providing two years diploma course in forestry for the non-gazetted range officer recruits of the government, autonomous and private sector enterpreneurs. There are now 17 subjects covering 1800 marks in four parts. Senior and junior forest service professionals of the government headed by a Director along with part time teachers are engaged to run the administration and academic matters.
In 1986, the former Forest College of Chittagong, now the Forest Academy, developed two-year MSc courses and training programme in Forestry for the senior forest service personnel. Forest Rangers Training Programme or BSc (Forestry) course was simultaneously introduced by the college. Senior forest service personnel and research officers of bangladesh forest research institute (BFRI), and part time faculties from relevant institutions usually conduct the courses. Recently the Forest Academy has started conducting short term training programmes.
The Institute of Forestry was established at the Chittagong University campus in 1976. The institute offers four-year undergraduate courses and one-year masters course.
In 1955, a forest research laboratory named as 'Forest Product Laboratories' was established in Chittagong aiming for better utilization and innovations in this sector. Subsequently in 1968 it was converted into a full-fledged Forest Research Institute. The mandate of the Bangladesh Forest Research Institute (BFRI) is to conduct research on the problems faced by and programmes undertaken by the Department of Forests, bangladesh forest industries development corporation (BFIDC) and other concerned government and non-government organisations. The administrative chief of the organisation is a director, and each of the two research wings is headed by a chief scientific officer. The forest management wing consists of 11 divisions and the forest product wing consists of 6 divisions. About one hundred scientists and researchers are now employed at BFRI. Research findings and technology developed by BFRI are published from time to time in their own research journal, annual reports, and booklets. So far the organisation has made important contributions to formulate need-based policy in balancing the population pressure and the forest produce. [Abul Khair]